By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday blasted the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS for spending N152,487,900 on the procurement of face/nose masks, hand sanitizers, protective wears and hand gloves during COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
The Scheme also expends at least N2, 480, 000 on diesel on monthly basis for its head office in Utako, Abuja and office annex in Wuse 11, Abuja.
In March, 2020, the agency spent the sum of N49,200.000.00 on what it called vital contributors program for hosting support of the online websites and functionalities.
These were revealed at a hearing of the House Committee on Finance which had summoned some Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs to interface with them on remittances into the government coffers.
The hearing was to step up this year’s revenue monitoring exercise to shore up the national income in line with the constitutional mandate and standing orders of the House.
Details of the expenditures contained in a document submitted to the Committee showed that on April 17, 2020, the Scheme was supplied with N5000 pieces of disposable face mask rated at N2,423,750.00
On April 17, 2020, there was also a supply of 500 bottles of hand sanitizer (500ml) for N2,423,750.00 On May 20, 2020, the Scheme also took the delivery of 500 packs of N95 face mask and 500 packs of disposable face and nose mask at N37,186,825.
On May 2020, there was a supply of 1000 sets of disposables coverall protective suit and 1000 disposable latex hand gloves at N37,186,825.
Similarly, on May 20, 20020, there was a supply of 250 pieces of decontamination spray pump at N9,075,000 On June 26, 2020, the Scheme got supply of hand sanitizer with customized logo on label for N47, 970,000.
On June 26, 2020, it took another delivery of disposable face/nose masks for N30,724,200 On June 26, 2020, there was another supply of disposable face/nose masks for N15,951,000.
On the procurement of diesel, the document also revealed that on March 3, 2020, there was a supply of 8,000 litres of diesel to head office at N2,480,000.00.
There was also another supply of 8000 litres of diesel for its office at Wuse 2, Abuja at N2,400,000.00
The Scheme spent N49,200,000 on March 24, 2020 on vital contributors program for hosting support of the online websites and functionalities.
Similarly, on February 26, 2020, there was a supply of calculators and stationeries at N2,473,537.50.
Members of the Committee which included Hons. Nicholas Ossai and Soho had raised questions on the expenditures, requesting a response from the NHIS Executive Secretary, Professor Mohammed Sambo who had appeared before the Committee with his team.
In his defence, Sambo said the agency also provided more items under its social corporate responsibility for some social workers on the frontline.
He said: “On the huge expenditure to tunes of millions with respect to the COVID-19 items, we are National Health Insurance Scheme, we are supposed to be a strategic purchasing agency by mandate. During COVID-19, there was a plan of the ministry of health on sectoral response to Covid-19 and because we are dealing with healthcare facilities, we all know that at the beginning of COVID-19, most of the healthcare workers abandoned their duty post because they don’t have items for their protection. As part our corporate social responsibility, we identified first line organizations like police and so on.
“We gave them those items and we also recognized hospitals that have huge enrollment of NHIS enrollees and we supplied them with these items.
“All the documents are available if the lawmakers needs them. So this expenditure is not restrictive to NHIS. We have been directed to ensure the protection of our people.
“On electricity, we all know last year, there has been a lot of erratic supply of electricity. We have a big office in Utako and in Wuse. In our office in Wuse, we had to maintain a cooling system. We have huge infrastructure that requires cooling. As we are improving our infrastructure now, we are talking about the level of electricity that are being consumed in future. All the expenditure in respect to COVID, some of the MDAs wrote to PTF that they need these items , they wrote to us.
“In respect to the toners, NHIS has a total of 38 state offices, 9 zonal offices as well as two offices at Abuja. So, when we are buying these items, we are not buying them as one toner per purchase. We buy them within the threshold to furnish the state and zonal offices, that’s why you see that the consumption rate is high”.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary gave highlights of their revenue generation and remittances.
According to him, moneys generated from addition of extra dependants enrollee in 2019 was N33.81 million; N12.88 million in 2020; N6.8 million so far generated in 2021.
On the accreditation and registration of Health Management Organizations, HMOs, Sambo said that N47.35 million was generated in 2019; N45.5 million in 2020 and N11.49 million so far in 2021.
In his closing remarks, the deputy Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Saidu Abdullahi who stood in for the Chairman, James Faleke said that the hearing was not to witch hunt any agency.
Abdullahi said that the Committee would not hesitate to activate the relevant provisions of the law should any agency of government fail to appear before the Committee.