How NHIS Spent N4.93bn On Pre-retirement Overseas Training, Others — AGF
The Office of the Auditor General for the Federation has uncovered about N4.93bn unapproved allowances paid by the management of the National Health Insurance Scheme to its members of staff.
The discovery is contained in the 2017 audit report of the Auditor-General for the Federation, which was obtained by our Correspondent in Abuja.
The report, which was signed by the Auditor-General for the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine, stated that the N4.93bn was paid to the NHIS personnel between January 2016 and December 2017.
The report listed the irregular allowances as upfront allowance, upfront differential allowance, 13th month salary allowance, and pre-retirement overseas training allowance.
Others are terminal benefit or exit package, and sitting allowance.
It said the terminal benefit allowance is different from what Contributory Pension Act provided for.
The report stated that the payments violated the Public Service Rule 130102, as they were not part of the allowances listed as payable to officers in the Federal Public Service.
The report read in part, “During the periodic checks of National Health Insurance Scheme, Abuja, various irregular and unapproved allowances amounting to N4,931,475,094.63 were paid to members of staff during the period January, 2016 to December, 2017.”
It also stated that the “allowance differential payment is illegal and alien to the public service as public service allowances are paid on the basis of grade level as at the time of payment.
“Sitting allowance was paid for holding day-to-day committee meetings, for which the officers received salaries in violation of Circular Ref No. SWC/s/04/S.310/T/65 of 8th April, 2016, which says that ‘public officers on monthly salary are not entitled to sitting allowance for holding meetings in their offices.”
The audit report stated that payment of pre-retirement training and exit package allowances violated the Pension Reform Act, 2014 which spelt out benefits due to retiring officers of the public service.
“These allowances were paid without providing approvals of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission in contravention of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission Act, which states that specific approval must be obtained for payment of any new allowance in the public service,” it added.
The report said the NHIS management’s violation of extant laws by making unapproved payments of allowances to its members of staff amounted to abuse of office and mismanagement of public funds.
This, it added, would deny the NHIS of the resources to carry out its statutory mandate.
The Auditor-General in the report recommended that the Executive Secretary of the NHIS be required to recover and pay back to the treasury the sum of N4,931,475,094.
He said evidence of recovery and remittance must be forwarded to his office for confirmation.
Speaking on the revelation of the audit report, the Lead Director, Centre for Social, Justice Eze Onyekpere, said the series of infractions committed by Ministries, Department and Agencies of government was a confirmation of an opaque fiscal system.
He said, “The infractions discovered by the audit were major weaknesses and lapses in the management of public funds.
“The key findings range from irregular expenditure to failure to surrender surplus revenues to the treasury all running into billions of naira.”