NHIS Entangled in Alleged Abuse of Procurement Act

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• House c’ttee grills surveyor-general over stolen car

By James Emejo in Abuja

Acting on a query from the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation (OAuGF), the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has resumed investigation into alleged spending of N38 million by National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for contracts without authorisation in 2011.

This is as the Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation (SGF) is separately being probe of negligence resulting to the loss of its official vehicle in the same year.

The committee had earlier waded into the NHIS issue since the incident occurred in 2011, but was yet to be convinced that management of the scheme acted discreetly.

According to the AuGF query for the year ended December 31,  2011, the NHIS had in 2011 awarded contracts in the sum  for the construction, supply, installation of two OTIS lifts for the head office in Abuja; but rather than install the specified lifts, the contractor allegedly purchased and mounted another make of lift-Oroma for N30.556 million, thereby saving N7.433 million for other purposes.

In the query forwarded to the committee, the Scheme had been requested to offer explanation on the whereabouts of the remaining N7.433 million.

The AuGF in the query also wondered why the contract sum was fully paid the contractors, quite ahead of the supplies and installation.

It said the action further amounted to breach of financial regulations in the public space.

The Chairman of the House Committee, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, had accused the SGF of ineptitude and NHIS of acting against extant laws.

He said the action of NHIS authorities was curious and painful, especially as it affected the psyche of workers in the country who contributed monthly to its funding.

He wondered why NHIS records indicated the contracts sum of N38 million against N20 million quoted by the consultant to the project.

Chinda urged NHIS to reappear before the committee on May 23 with the contractors, NHIS officials involved in the contract and all communication, documents, receipts and  payment vouchers relating to the contract.

He announced that the committee would place the organisation on status inquiry to determine the veracity or otherwise of the allegations.

However,  Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, had explained that the contract sum difference was ‘used to offset cost overrun as a result of additional work carried out on the project.’

This work, he said, consisted of civil and mechanical repairs at the area where the lifts were mounted.

He said, although he had not been appointed into office at the time of the contract, he was willing to take responsibility for the thoughtlessness that might have been shown in the award and execution of the contract.

According to him, by the time he resumed duties in August 2016, it had been six years after the contract was awarded, admitting that he was yet to sight a letter by the organisation engaging the contractors and authorisation of N7.433 million expenditure for the civil and mechanical works contract.

When pressed by the committee to appraise the development, he concurred that due process had been breached in the procurement procedure.

He said he had already launched an investigation into some questionable dealings carried out before his assumption of office.

Meanwhile, the committee had wondered why the vehicle in question was stolen from a mechanic workshop in Nasarawa State, where it ought not to be at the time, as there were no records that it was sent there for any official assignment.

The AuGF, in the query, further regretted that up till the moment, management had been unable to provide proof of panel inquiry by the office, police investigation, court mediation and insurance cover for the vehicle.