The House of Reps Committee on Finance has commenced probe on the N152 million claimed to have been used to diesel, face masks and hand sanitisers by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The Committee demanded the explanation at a public hearing on monitoring revenue generation by government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in Abuja on Monday, May 24.
Rep. Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta) a member of the Reps Committee said that documents available indicated that N2.09 million was spent on the purchase of toners.
Ossai also questioned the N152.4 million spent on procurement of facemasks, hand sanitisers, protective wears, and hand gloves during COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 by NHIS.
He also wanted to know the scheme’s expenditure of at least N2.4 million on diesel on monthly basis for its head office in Utako, Abuja, and office annex in Wuse 11, Abuja.
The Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Nasri Sambo explained that the agency was a strategic purchasing agency by its mandate.
He said the agency also provided more items under its Social Corporate Responsibility, CSR, for some social workers on the frontline during the peak of the pandemic.
“On the huge expenditure to tunes of millions with respect to the COVID-19, items, we are a 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 sectorial 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 posts because they don’t have items for their protection.
“As part of our corporate social responsibility, we identified first line organisations like police and so on; we gave them those items and we also recognised hospitals that have a huge enrollment of NHIS enrollees; and we supplied them with these items.
“All the documents are available if the lawmakers need them; this expenditure is not restrictive to NHIS, we have been directed to ensure the protection of our people,’’ he said.
The Deputy Chairman of the Reps Committee, Rep. Saidu Abdullahi (APC-Niger) who presided over the meeting said the hearing was not to witch hunt; but to ensure accountability and block revenue leakages.
Abdullahi said the committee would not hesitate to activate relevant provisions of the law; if any agency of government failed to appear before it.
“We have just started the revenue monitoring session for the year 2021. The objective is to ensure that we shore up the revenue generation of the country.
“As I stated that the country has the capacity to fund the budget size of 13 to 15 trillion; all we need to do is to work together with the Executive; particularly the MDAs to ensure that we block all areas of leakages; and ensure they are responsible to the consolidated revenue fund,’’ he said.
He directed the clerk of the committee to re-invite the agencies that failed to appear; saying that should they fail to appear, appropriate sections of the constitution would be invoked against them.