Usman Yusuf, executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), has been suspended for three months by the minister of health, Isaac Adewole, over allegations of fraud.
In a letter dated July 6, 2017 seen by TheCable, Adewole said Yusuf’s response to the petitions written against him were “considered unsatisfactory”.
An investigative committee to probe the NHIS ES has been set up, Adewole wrote, and “you are directed to proceed on 3 (three) months suspension with immediate effect to pave way for an uninterrupted investigation, in accordance with Public Service Rule”.
He was also directed to hand over to the next most senior general manager in the agency.
TheCable understands that the final straw was the purchase of a Prado SUV by Yusuf for N58 million shortly before Ramadan, although his approval limit is N2.5 million.
A number of Prado SUVs are already attached to his office, but he still went ahead to buy a new one, according to insiders.
Since Yusuf was appointed ES on July 29, 2016, he has been accused of violating every procurement law in the books and dishing out contracts to cronies.
An insider told TheCable: “The first infraction of the executive secretary was perpetuated through the training programme of staff. The total sum of N860 million was budgeted for training in the 2016 budget. Immediately, Professor Yusuf assumed duty, he set in place machinery to award contracts for trainings which were all devoid of laid down procedures.
“These trainings were not targeted to improve the capacity of the staff but as will be observed in the empty content of the trainings particularly in the ICT sector. This he perfected with his cronies by organizing five different trainings namely: ICT, risk management, healthcare financing, communication strategy, public procurement.
“All these spendings he carried out were above his approval limits, but he was always heard to claim that he has the ears of the president, they being from the same state, and whatever your complaints, they will go nowhere.”
He was accused of splitting contracts of N400 million in favour of First Digital and Techno-Law Forensics Ltd owner by an alleged his “benefactor and confidant”.
“In one of the trainings, a course fee of N520,000 per staff for three days was approved without recourse to diligent planning but with the mindset to profiteer his cronies. After a lot of hue and cry from the general staff the fee was cut to N270,000 naira under suspicious circumstances,” another insider said.
“Thus the fraud began, most of these trainings which were scheduled to hold across the 36 states and the FCT never held, while those that held was incomparable to the funds which had all being released for the trainings. There was absence of training materials in most of the designated venues of the trainings.
“Multiples of payment vouchers ranging between N19 million, N18 million and N21 million where raised to cover up for the payment of over N400 million for these trainings.”
Over N250 million was to said have been arranged between Yusuf and a consultant, AMA Health Consult, owned by three retired managers of the scheme, “who are also bosom friends of the ES”.
They were named as Abdulsalam Bala, Kabiru Mustafa and Thomas Adeoye.
Yusuf was accused of awarding a training contract to them at a cost of N300,000 per staff for three days, but after an outcry from staff it was again reduced to N250,000 each.
“Similarly, a training of over N120 million was approved for staff training outside the country to his friend Mahdi, on risk management,” one of the petitioners said.
‘The amount of N150 million was also approved for the consultant in the training of report writing, who also happens to be his brother who is a retired director, Kabiru Yar’Adua.
“It should be observed that all these approvals by Prof. Yusuf are above his approval threshold according to laid down norms of the service, circumventing this by contract splitting.”
Yusuf allegedly approved supply of e-library equipment to a company, Promatrix Global Resources Ltd, for N28 million with the company getting paid before execution — against procurement rules.
“The goods were supplied on the 06/04/2017 while the job had been paid for on the 28/03/2017 but the vouchers were tampered with to cover the anomaly. Assuming that the job was executed on the 27/04/2017, how possible is it to install and make payment within a day. These are questions the ES, GM F&A and GM Audit should answer for,” the insider said.
“The leadership of NHIS has developed the culture of spending the scheme’s funds without prior approval of the supervising minister, claiming the president had given him blank approval.
“Yusuf awarded several contracts above his N2.5m threshold which is against procurement act, and most of the contracts were awarded to Mallam Mahdi and his brothers.”
TheCable confirmed that Yusuf’s suspension was conveyed to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo as well as Abba Kyari, chief of staff to the president.
The senate is also investigating the now suspended ES.