By Gifty Arthur
The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), which is going round cup in hand begging stakeholders and government, to raise it current Value Added Tax (VAT) levy, has been caught sponsoring government communicators, with an amount of GH¢62, 370.00 and paying school fees for the Minister for Procurement, Sara Adwoa Safo, to study abroad.
In the case of the GH¢62, 370.00, an internal memo sighted by The Herald, revealed the money was used to train 70 members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) communications team, reason being “to inform, educate and communicate with stakeholders.”
The memo, signed by Osward Essuah-Mensah, Deputy Director Marketing to the Deputy Chief Executive, Administration, said the 70 persons, as part of the training programme, will be offered coffee and lunch breaks costing the tax payer some GH¢10,370.00, with additional amount of GH¢52,000, being honorarium to the participants.
This action of management of NHIA, which is outside of the Authority’s core mandate, has raised many eyebrows with many wondering the appropriateness of the sponsorship.
This comes at a time Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Authority, Dr Samuel Yaw Annor, has said his outfit was broke and that the scheme may in a year collapse if government did not take steps to increase the levy. He has already met with many stakeholders, including the Chief Imam and civil society groups.
Dr Annor, is appealing for the institution of a health tax to be imposed on products like sugar, cigarette and alcohol to raise more money to finance health care.
Speaking on Citi Eyewitness News, Dr. Yaw Annor, admitted that the Authority was in dire need, adding that “Between 2009 and now, we have just been piling debts”.
He also stated that his outfit has gotten to a point where it needs “To take bold steps. Let us try and pay the appropriate fee for our healthcare and the appropriate fee according to suggestions by the World Health Organization is about $86 or about GH¢380 or GH¢400 per year for each member of the scheme and we should strive towards that”.
The memo issued in April 4, 2018, titled “Approval to facilitate a meeting to educate government communication team on NHIS policies and new initiatives” read in parts “As part of Corporate Affairs Directorate’s mandate to inform, educate and communicate with our stakeholders, it is recommended that a meeting is held on Friday, 6th April 2018 with Government Communication Team (being a key stakeholder) numbering about 65 persons to formally educate them on NHIS Policies and comprehensively explain management’s new proposals to enhance the work of the Scheme”.
The three paragraph memo, explained that the programme would give the communicators the needed information as far as it operational functions and dynamics of the scheme and also provide complete education, on all new initiatives and proposals and also offer an opportunity to answer any enquires that may exist.
It is expected that, the Government Communication Team after the meeting, will be well equipped to further propagate the policies of the Scheme through their network in a quest to deepen knowledge and restore public confidence in the Scheme.
Meanwhile, the question on the lips of many who have come across the memo is whether the said training is what the Authority needs at the moment?
They argued the challenge of the Authority, has always been how it can get the necessary funds to pay NHIS providers who sometimes threaten to stop providing services to users and not how it programmes are implemented which must lead to providing education to communicators.
This paper has cited a letter from the Deputy Majority Leader and Minister for Procurement written on March 16, 2018, requesting the Authority to sponsor an executive leadership training programme in Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts-USA.
The cost for the training programme was $8,500, which is cost of tuition and air travel.
Ms Safo, who addressed the letter for to the NHIA CEO on her letterhead as Member of Parliament (MP) for Dome-Kwabenya and Deputy Majority Leader, said “I would be grateful if you could assist with the cost of tuition of Eight Thousand Five Hundred US Dollars ($8,500) cost of an air ticket and accommodation”.
In the wake of these expenses, Joy news has reported that it has sighted another document, titled “confidential,” emanating from National Security in which a complaint is made to the NHIA about shortages of consumables in the Krachi East District.
The shortages, have led to the delay in the issuance of NHIS cards to new applicants since March 2018.
“Your outfit is hereby urged to fast-track the release of funds to the region to enable the aforementioned district to resume the issuance of new cards to prospective applicants since the situation has the potential of affecting healthcare delivery…” the letter said.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Majority Leader, Adwoa Safo, has denied that the NHIA gave her a sponsorship of US$8,500 to enable her undertake a training in Women and Power Executive Programme at the Harvard Kennedy School in the United States of America (USA).
In a press release, she admitted submitting such a sponsorship request to the NHIA in a letter dated March 16, 2018.
However, the MP stated that “the request was subsequently withdrawn by a letter dated, 21 May 2018 due to Parliaments decision to foot the entire cost of the training which includes the cost of her tickets and the accommodation”.
She added that, the NHIA in responding to the withdrawal letter confirmed that the NHIA “did not make any payment whatsoever to Sarah Adwoa Safo”.
The statement which was in response to a letter circulating on social media to the effect that Ms Safo, sought for some monies from NHIA, emphasized that Parliament’s resolve to sponsor the training session was borne out of the fact that the office she occupies in the legislature as Chairperson of the Women’s Caucus is a critical one.
She reiterated that, “there are records to show she did not receive any money from NHIA after Parliament agreed to sponsor the educational programme”.
Interestingly, Adwoa Safo’s document to NHIA, had the signature of the senior officers of the institution, asking that the document be processed for the money to be released to the Minister for Procurement.