Ex-NHIS boss denies allegations of fraud

A former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Associate Prof. ‘Femi Thomas, has described as libelous the allegations of financial impropriety levelled against him by some people.

In a statement by his media aide, Mr. Adeyemi Adesola, obtained by our correspondent, Thomas said he did not know anything about the alleged offers of N300m and N450m respectively made to two former helmsmen of the NHIS in respect of a large parcel of land measuring approximately 3,896.79m² and located in No. 875 Cadastral Zone, B05 Utako District, Abuja.

The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, in a letter dated December 8, 2014, with reference number LH/V/1/944/16/10 and signed by the Director of Valuation and Housing Finance, Rev. O.O. Onabanjo, approved the purchase of the said land.

The statement said the allegation was published in a national newspaper (not The PUNCH).

Explaining the process of the purchase, Thomas said, “When the (NHIS) management wanted to buy the land, as it is the practice, we called the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and they sent their evaluation department to go and evaluate the property. The report by the ministry puts the value of the property at N1.5bn.

“Beyond that level of due process, the purchase was approved by the ministerial tenders’ board because it was beyond the power of the NHIS’ Tenders Management Committee.

“The negotiation was so tight that we could not pay the agency fee. As a matter of fact, the evaluation report by the consultant shows that the landed property, which is about 4,000 square metres, has a pile foundation for the development of a seven-storey building put at a cost of N300m.”

He added, “The need to purchase the land was necessitated by the acute shortage of space for the staff. In the office, two or more officials were sharing a desk, and we realised that the situation might hamper our operations and efficiency.

“We also knew that the decision to purchase the land made sense for economy of scale than having another headquarters, extension in Gudu, since the proposed site was just a plot away from our head office.

“Also, we all know the rate at which the value of land in Abuja appreciates. So, against this backdrop, we believed that the property was not a bad investment for the agency.”

Thomas lamented that the allegations, as published, were done by some people in the agency “who always try to destroy any chief executive that attempts to run the NHIS as a professional and profitable health insurance scheme.”

He noted that the unnamed individuals had been making efforts to destroy the reputation of every administrator who had headed the scheme.

Recounting his administration’s achievements within its short period, Thomas said that not long after his assumption of duty, the agency discovered 100,000 fake enrollees, through which money was siphoned off the coffers of the scheme illegally.

He said that before he became the executive secretary, some Health Management Organisations owed health care providers over N1bn, while some HMOs operated as if there were no laws regulating their activities.

“My administration made it clear to the HMOs that unless they were ready to play according to the rules, they would be sanctioned. This made the majority of them to reschedule their priorities,” Thomas said.

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