The Herald, has discovered a very worrying development which in all intent and purposes is accounting for the dire stress that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is going though, with claims of its imminent collapse.
This paper has uncovered the payment of a quarterly fee of GH¢8,000 each to the 275 Members of Parliament (MPs), including those crying that the laudable social intervention health scheme was collapsing, due to lack of funds. Already, Mission Hospitals and other private health facilities in the country, have withdrawn medical treatment for contributors.
The shocking breakdown are that each MP collects GH¢32,000 annually working up to GH¢8, 800,000 each from the drying coffers of the NHIS into the bank accounts and private pockets of the 275 lawmakers. It is not clear how long this payment to the MPs has been in place.
The Herald came across the distribution of Ecobank Ghana Limited designated cheques in Parliament from the Authority on Wednesday to some MPs. Aides of some of the MPs were also seen collecting the cheaques on behalf of their bosses who were not around.
NHIA, through one of its Communications Manager, Selorm Adonoo, yesterday confirmed the unreasonable payments to the legislators saying, this has been going on for some time now, adding it is meant for fuel, traveling allowances, hire experts and others things to help them (MPs) monitor NHIA-sponsored projects under the District Health Directorates.
Apart from individual contributions from patrons of the NHIS into the NHIA coffers, every Ghanaian contributes towards the sustenance of the health insurance scheme by way of taxes under the Value Added Tax (VAT).
Restaurants in the country are even charging 2.5 percent as NHIS levy on every transaction, but it appears these monies are going elsewhere not for medical treatments, but into MPs private pockets.
A phony explanation given was that the money was said to be for monitoring of the NHIA programme in the 275 Constituencies in the country.
It is, however, unclear what sort of projects the MPs are monitoring and how this payment to them inures to the benefit of the Authority, instead of the treatment of the contributors.
It was learnt that the NHIA is not the only state institution which have had to cough up mouthwatering sums to the legislators in the name of monitoring. The Ghana Education Trust Fund (GetFund) and District Assemblies Common Fund, have also have to dish out huge sums to the MPs in the name of “Project Monitoring” in their respective Constituencies.
Selorm Adonoo, explained that the MPs use the said money to monitor some health projects in their respective Constituencies and districts, and cited for example the Akatsi District, where a CHIP compound and maternity facility were built in the district, which already has numerous facilities.
He mentioned CHIPS compounds in most parts of the Northern Region, which ought to be monitored by the MPs.
He insisted that although the monies go into the private pockets of the MPs, the NHIA has a way of monitoring them to ensure that the monies are put to good use.
Mr. Adonoo, argued that the payments are also a way of ensuring that diseases are kept under control by not becoming a full blown pandemic, thus raising the budget of the NHIS.
Contrary to the reports available to The Herald that the MPs receive the monies quarterly, the Communications Manager said the GH¢8, 000 cheaque was for the whole year.
“It goes to all the MPs. There are projects on going every time….every district has a health project on-going, it is funded or not by the NHIA but every district every time has a project on-going. Some of them even use those moneys to take care of other health needs like some of them register people unto the scheme, some of them for other needs for example, but there is a way we get feedback from them on how they use the money”.
“It started about five to six-years-ago….. I mean they may not be experts on certain projects so I’m sure the thinking is that they should be able to fuel their cars to the place to inspect those projects. To afford them the opportunity to be able to consult or hire some experts to ascertain the work done. So for us when the projects are done, we are ok”.
Asked whether the MPs send reports, Mr. Adonoo told The Herald that “I can’t confirm now whether they send a report but what I understand is that there is a way from the district.. from our own people”.
The NHIA Communications Manager went on that “you know every district has an NHIS office and there is quite close collaboration between the district and the regional offices when the monitoring and evaluation of heads of the NHIA are done on the MPs, so it is quite a connection or network”.
He, however, explained that expense on the monitoring is separate from the project cost, which is also on the shoulders of the cash-strapped Authority.
“These are provisions in law; the laws of the NHIA, every project must be monitored anyway, so the monitoring in this case is decoupled from the project itself so that there could be another eye watching the progress of the project”.
He disclosed that the payments are from a 10 percent NHIA budget setup purposely for monitor projects.