NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6 – The spectacle at the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) continued on Sunday with the Medical Services Minister overruling the Head of the Public Service over his weekend decision to suspend the entire board at the national health insurer.
Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o said the CEO Richard Kerich and other board members were firmly in office despite a contrary order by the Head of the Civil Service Francis Kimemia.
The only person who stood suspended, Nyong’o said, was the chairman, Richard Muga whom Nyong’o sent away last Thursday.
“I am the minister who appoints and suspends. Kimemia has no such powers and cannot decide to micro-manage the ministry of Medical Services. The board and the CEO are under my instructions to continue with their work without any interference by any other person,” the visibly agitated minister said.
Kimemia had said a caretaker board was to be announced later in the week to probe the alleged malpractices involving the new civil service and teachers’ medical schemes provided by the NHIF.
Nyong’o however vowed: “There will be no caretaker board”
“I am the only one who can gazette a caretaker board… not Kimemia. And Kimemia did not have the courtesy to discuss this with me and I had already made a decision before I left for South Africa. I knew what I was going to do w0hen I come back. So I don’t want my train of thought to be derailed by a Kimemia,” Nyong’o maintained.
The minister claimed that the Head of Public Service made the decision based on a daylong meeting he held with the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli, Medical Services Assistant Minister Kambi Kazungu, suspended board chairman Richard Muga and the Acting Justice and Constitutional Affairs Permanent Secretary Gichira Kibara.
Others he claimed to be at the meeting were Ms Kirigo, a Mr Mucai and a Mr Okwaro.
“He (Kimemia) only heard the side of the story he wanted to hear,” Nyong’o asserted.
Nyong’o further alleged that during the meeting, it was said the whole scheme to increase NHIF contributions was a plot by the Orange Democratic Movement to raise money for elections.
“It was further said that as the Minister for Medical Services… I usually travel abroad to bank money taken from the NHIF and the CEO is my accomplice that is why I am protecting him,” he alleged.
He told a news conference that he would speak to Prime Minister Raila Odinga to send in the Efficiency Monitoring Unit to probe the alleged irregular cash disbursement of funds to health facilities by the national health Insurer.
“I have to discuss with the prime minister so that we can send a body that is competent in investigations and another in forensic audit Deloitte and Touché to go into NHIF and do this work. It is going to be a waste of time putting a taskforce to do these things when I know what needs to be done,” Nyong’o said.
This will run parallel with the parliamentary Committee on Health that is already investigating the alleged multi-million shilling fraud where the NHIF is accused of disbursing funds to ghost and ill-equipped clinics.
“This process is not yet complete and we all await the final report after it has been debated in parliament. The NHIF has cooperated fully with the committee,” the minister stated.
He noted that there was a reform agenda under implementation at the NHIF following the reports by Alexander Forbes and IFC/Deloitte and Touché.
The recommendations by Deloitte and Touché envisaged undertaking changes in the board and service provision, both of which the minister said, required changes in the NHIF act.
“I appreciate the changes needed but they must not be undertaken in a politicised environment,” he stated.
He argued that the alleged corruption at NHIF had been engineered to derail ODM ministers.
“A dirty tricks desk has been set up to manufacture scandals in the ODM ministries and to derail the prime minister and his ministers quite likely without the knowledge of the President,” he said.
He claimed that other minister in line for such scandals were Lands Minister James Orengo and Regional Development Minister Fred Gumo.