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Court deals NHIF caretaker board a blow

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 19 – The High Court on Thursday suspended the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) caretaker committee until the full hearing and determination of a case in which the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) has challenged the appointment of the board.

Justice Weldon Korir said that President Mwai Kibaki acted in non-compliance with the NHIF Act when he appointed the caretaker committee.

KMA had gone to court saying although the president has powers under the State Corporations Act to appoint a member to the board of a State corporation, that power must be exercised in accordance with the statute creating the particular parastatal.

The Attorney General had argued against the suspension, saying it would amount to allowing the substantive application without a full hearing on merit.

“The court is not prevented from issuing a stay order because the court cannot allow an illegality to continue if the issue has been brought to its attention,” Judge Korir responded to the AG.

The president gazetted a new caretaker board for the fund on May 9 this year following the suspension of the entire board and Chief Executive Officer Richard Kerich over a multi-billion shilling scandal involving the civil servants’ health scheme.

They were accused of disbursing funds of the Sh4.3 billion civil servants scheme to non-existent and ill- equipped health facilities.

Earlier in the month, Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o under whose docket NHIF falls wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions to ask for the reinstatement of Kerich.

He had argued that Parliament rejected a report by the parliamentary committee on health that had conducted investigations into the scandal and therefore there was no case against the officer.

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On Tuesday, Kerich is said to have received a reinstatement letter from the Ministry of Medical Services.

“The way forward is that we must follow the NHIF Act and of course as the minister I must help guide the way forward,” Nyong’o told journalists on Wednesday.

On the suspension of the caretaker board by the courts, he told Capital FM News that he was awaiting a full brief from the lawyers.

“Lawyers must interpret it to me,” he said adding that he was also waiting for Prime Minister Raila Odinga to return from China to discuss the reinstatement of Kerich.

Sources said the Acting CEO Adan Adan had been recalled to the Ministry of Medical Services where he worked as a deputy secretary.

The caretaker committee chaired by Mutuma Mugambi, a former director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute, was constituted in May and given a three-month mandate.

The full hearing of the case will be next Friday.

However it is not clear when the determination of the case will be made, since the judges are expected to go on vacation beginning August to mid September.

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