MPs’ probe finds shocking details on NHIF scheme - Daily Nation

MPs’ probe finds shocking details on NHIF scheme

Wednesday May 16 2012

Minister for Medical Services, Prof Anyang Nyongo with PS Mary Ngare before the House Committee probing the NHIF saga on May 15, 2012. Photo/SALATON NJAU

Minister for Medical Services, Prof Anyang Nyongo with PS Mary Ngare before the House Committee probing the NHIF saga on May 15, 2012. Photo/SALATON NJAU  

By CAROLINE WAFULA [email protected]

A parliamentary committee investigating the national health insurer’s medical scheme scandal starts compiling its report on Thursday with indications that senior government officials will be linked to questionable dealings in the Sh4.2 billion controversy.

Details of the one-month Health parliamentary committee hearings appeared to question the roles of Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o, and the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) board and chief executive officer Richard Kerich.

There were massive questions raised over the Clinix Healthcare Ltd, Meridian Medical Group that were allocated a combined Sh318 million compared to the two referral hospitals, Kenyatta and Moi Referral, that were allocated only Sh7 million.

The investigations also revealed that the owner of Clinix Healthcare Ltd, Mr Jayesh Saini, is also the managing director of Gesto Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which has previously been accused of supplying fake drugs to the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency.

Majority shareholder

Prof Nyong’o is on the spot with the committee having grilled him on his association with Mr Saini, the owner of Pharma Investment Holdings, the 99 per cent majority shareholder in Clinix.

Pharma is registered in British Virgin Islands, a leading offshore tax haven where some of the country’s major scandals have been traced.

Clinix which secured Sh202 million in the first three months of the scheme’s roll-out is one of the private health providers picked by NHIF and the committee believes it enjoyed undue favour owing to connections enjoyed by Mr Saini.

It has been a month of interesting, yet rather shocking revelations as the Health Parliamentary Committee delved into the chronology of events that culminated in the implementation of the scheme, pointing to a possible rip-off of taxpayer money.

All who have taken part in the investigation have said that in all ways, the scheme meant to provide a comprehensive medical cover to 216,789 civil servants and the disciplined forces was a noble idea and should not be scrapped.

However, its roll out has turned out to be something close to a mega scandal, with committee members equating it to the Goldenberg, Anglo-Leasing and Mobitelea-type scandals, with some describing Mr Saini as “another Kamlesh Pattni”.

The committee is likely to fault Prof Nyong’o and his Public Service counterpart Dalmas Otieno in their role in the scheme, having concluded on Tuesday that they were both running away from responsibility.

“Why is everybody now running away from any association with a scheme which you were all very keen and excited to roll out?” committee chairman Dr Robert Monda asked at the end of the session with Prof Nyong’o.

Prof Nyong’o was on the spot over his ministry’s role in jump-starting investigation into the matter, having failed to convince the committee that he instructed relevant authorities to move in and take action.

The committee also questioned his links with a city businessman at the centre of the messy NHIF scheme, citing occasions where they had met and interacted before the scheme’s roll-out.

The committee observes that Mr Saini, the owner of Clinix Healthcare Ltd is said to be known to the minister and a frequent visitor at the Medical Services Ministry corridors, although the minister describes him as a businessman like other businessmen who have sought to do business with the ministry.

“They come asking to do business with the ministry and I have referred them to relevant departments, some to procurement and others to Kemsa,” he stated at the Tuesday meeting with the committee.

Apart from Clinix, Mr Saini also runs Nairobi West Hospital and Gesto Pharmaceuticals — as chairman and director in charge of international business in the first and as managing directors in the others.

Prof Nyong’o found himself in a tight position when he was required to explain how Mr Saini managed to land the NHIF deal despite the negative records that Gesto Pharmaceuticals holds at the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

The firm had been contracted to supply drugs by the Kenya Medical and Supplies Agency.

Before Mr Saini’s appearance, the Registrar of Companies had indicated that her office didn’t have details on the owner of Pharma Investment Holdings.

First to raise eyebrows in the investigations was the unearthing of non-existent facilities that had been accredited by the NHIF for public servants, a majority of them belonging to Clinix.

Clinix, whose vision is to expand and have over 300 facilities countrywide, according to its proprietor, has rapidly expanded during 2012 acquiring 50 licences for new facilities from a sub-committee of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board.

Operating illegally

Shockingly, the board is yet to sit down, scrutinise the facilities and endorse the licences, which in essence means all are operating illegally since the board may, upon inspection, cancel the licences.

It also means the lives of Kenyans have been put at risk by exposing them to facilities and services whose standards are yet to be confirmed by the body charged with the responsibility.

In total, 1,053 licences have been released by the board registrar to various clinics across the sector, without following due procedure.

The procedure is that the facilities should have first been inspected and endorsed before licences are issued.

This has led to a key question of whether the board is more concerned about allowing business in the health sector to thrive or safeguarding quality of healthcare service provision.

A key observation by the committee now winding up the crucial investigation is that most health facilities taking part in the scheme were ill-prepared for the roll-out, with regard to equipment, staff and accessibility.

Of the 50 Clinix facilities that have become operational this year, 21 were licensed in April, 11 in March, 12 in February and 6 in January. Meridian acquired a licence for one facility this year.

President Mwai Kibaki has since sacked the NHIF board following a boardroom drama on the fate of NHIF chief executive officer, Mr Richard Kerich.

The new board inaugurated on Monday has assured NHIF contributors that their money is safe after freezing the NHIF accounts of Clinix and Meridian hospitals.

However, new CEO Adan A. Adan said the institutions will continue to provide services to civil servants until investigations are completed in the next three months and pleaded with contributors for patience.