NHIF boss is sacked in day of high drama
The National Hospital Insurance Fund was a circus on Thursday with the Chief Executive Officer sent packing by the board, reinstated within minutes by the minister and the board chair sacked and removed from the premises.
In drama played out in public, chairman Richard Muga announced the suspension of five top managers, including the CEO, Mr Richard Kerich.
He appointed Mr George Midiwo to take over in an acting capacity with immediate effect.
But Medical Services minister Anyang’ Nyong’o immediately reinstated the managers and instead suspended Prof Muga.
It all started at noon when Prof Muga, addressing the media alone, announced that the board had suspended Mr Kerich and four other senior officers and named their replacements.
While the drama was going on at the NHIF headquarters in Nairobi’s Upper Hill, a committee of MPs was being told how one medical services provider was paid Sh100 million advance for the civil servants medical scheme even before some of the clinics were put in place.
Clinix, whose ownership is also being questioned by the parliamentary Committee on Health, opened about 50 of its 71 outlets between January and Thursday, a period covering the first quarter of the NHIF rollout scheme for public servants.
Records before the team investigating how Clinix Healthcare and Meridian Medical Group were selected by NHIF indicate over 20 accredited outlets of the former were not registered at the time they were paid by NHIF.
In total, both health providers were paid Sh318 million for 88,000 principal members and their families.
The Central Organisation of Trade Unions has issued 14-day strike notice over plans to increase mandatory contributions from a maximum Sh320 a month to Sh2,000, depending on the level of income.
There have been complaints that the NHIF is poorly managed and has no capacity to manage the huge sums to be raised.
At his news conference, Prof Muga said: “The board has taken this action so that it is able to investigate various allegations that have been levelled against the organisation in relation to expenditures within the health insurance scheme for civil servants and the disciplined forces.”
He said they had received complaints where some hospital groups or their representatives had been allocated money for yet to be registered or even constructed facilities.
“These are some of the irregularities various committees of the board are going to look into and report back by Thursday next week.”
However, just after Prof Muga finished making the statement and preparing to go and write the suspension letters, he was elbowed out of his chair by his vice-chairman, Mr Wilson Sossion.
Mr Sossion declared that the board had not and was not going to suspend anybody and allegations of corruption were just industry propaganda.
“The chairman has made such a proposal to a board meeting this morning, but it was turned down by all the members. He has no authority to sack anybody,” said Mr Sossion, who is also the chairman of the Kenya National Teachers Union.
A few minutes past midday, things moved fast with permanent secretary for Medical Services Mary Ngare sweeping into the boardroom.
She announced the minister’s decision to overturn the suspensions.
She said the NHIF scheme might be having problems, but there were enough investigations agencies to look into the issue.
“I am in touch with the minister for Medical Services, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o and he is very annoyed by what has happened here this morning. He is very angry.”
Ms Ngare said the board meeting had not been called to discuss the conduct of Mr Kerich and the issue was not even in the agenda.
After the PS left the room, Prof Muga declared that he stood by his action, and that the four officers remained suspended and he was ready to take the consequences.
He declared that he did not fear being sacked since he was comfortably employed at the Great Lakes University in Kisumu.
He was categorical, however that only the President, who is the appointing authority, can sack him.
“There are many bad things going on within the board and we must stand up against them if the scheme is to run effectively.”
By this time, a few minutes to 2pm, the media were scrambling to minister Nyong’o’s offices, some 500 metres from the NHIF Building where he had called a press conference.
The minister did not address the Press but issued a short statement suspending Prof Muga for insubordination.