Reps begin probe of NHIS over alleged N38m contract
Investigate Surveyor-General for loss of N6.6m official vehicle
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.
The committee had earlier waded into the issue since the incident occurred in 2011, but was yet to be convinced that management of the scheme acted discreetly.
Based on a query by the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF) for the year ended December 31, 2011, the scheme 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 purchased and mounted another make of lift-Oroma for N30.556 million, thereby saving N7.433 for other purposes.
In the query forwarded to the committee, the scheme has been requested to explain the whereabouts of the remaining N7.433 million. The AGF 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 was against financial regulations of government. The AGF, in another query, is also accusing the office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation (SGF) of negligence that resulted to the loss of its official vehicle in the same year.
The query wondered why the vehicle was stolen in 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.
At the hearing presided over by Chairman of the House committee, Kingsley Chinda, the lawmakers blamed the SGF for ineptitude and NHIS for acting against extant laws.
He specifically 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 it.
He wondered why NHIS records would be indicating the contract sum of N38 million against N20 million quoted by the consultant to the project. Chinda, therefore, urged the NHIS to re-appear before the committee on May 23 this year with the contractors, NHIS officials involved in the contract and all communication, documents, receipts and payment vouchers relating to the contract.
He said the committee would place the organisation on status inquiry to determine the veracity or otherwise of the allegations. Earlier, Executive Secretary of the scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, had explained that the contract sum difference was ‘used to offset cost over-run as a result of additional work carried out on the project.’
The 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.
Meanwhile, the SGF, Ebisintei Awodu, has promised to avail the committee with the required documents to indicate that there were no manipulations in the claim that the vehicle was stolen.