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16.11.2005 General News

Dismissal of NHIS executive sec. raises questions

By jFm
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Joy FM's ongoing investigations into the dismissal of the executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) have highlighted allegations of victimization and conflict of interest against the chairman of the governing council.

A letter signed by the chairman of the National Health Insurance Council, Frank Adu, said the council took a decision to terminate Dr. Akor's appointment upon the advice of the Public Services Commission.

It also stated that the council's decision was endorsed and approved by the president in a letter dated 7th October 2005 signed by the chief of staff and minister of presidential affairs, Kwadwo Mpianim.

However, as Kofi Owusu reports, there are more questions to be answered about Dr. Akor's dismissal.

If you visit the National Health Insurance Secretariat and speak to some of the staff you get the sense that something is not quite right but you can't get answers to some of the nagging questions that keep popping up ever since news of Dr. Akor's dismissal was received.

For one thing the dismissal letter to Dr. Akor did not mention anything about the need for an officer with an insurance background.

That was the reason given by the chairman of the council Frank Adu junior in an interview with Joy FM last week.

But the letter also noted the pioneering role played by Dr Akor in the National Health Insurance Programme and a promise to pay all entitlements and ex-gratia due him.

Further enquiries by Joy News revealed that there was bad blood between Dr. Akor and the council chairman.

This, according to sources, was fueled by Dr. Akor's principled stance against the chairman of the council, Mr. Frank Adu who wanted his bank, to be included on the list of banks at which monies accruing to the National Health Insurance Fund at Cal bank were to be deposited.

Dr. Akor himself confirmed this but played down on the allegation that it was a major issue between the two. “From January when he asked me to open an account, I told him there will be a problem and I advised that we open it up for other banks to bid so that there will be some transparency.

But he had been insisting that we should open the account at the Cal Bank and that's what I know. There was no violent opposition; it was only a friendly advice as to how the money should be handled so that it would be transparent.

I didn't refuse to oblige, it was an advice that I gave and the fact is even if I was to open the account, it is the prerogative of the Accountant General to approve of where the account should be lodged,” he said.

But Mr. Frank Adu dismissed the allegation as laughable.

Although he refused to grant a recorded interview he said no one in his right senses will believe that story.

That may be so. But independent checks by Joy News at the Controller and Accountant General's department revealed that Mr Frank Adu did make attempts to get some of the monies accruing to the NHIS Fund to his bank, which of course could be a legitimate transaction given that the monies need to be invested.

However, there was a little problem being the fact that Mr. Adu was also a signatory to the account of the National Health Insurance Council.

Documentary evidence available to Joy News indicates that Mr. Adu even got cabinet's approval for his bank to be included on the list of banks at which monies accruing to the NHIS Fund were to be deposited.

But, the Controller and Accountant General raised an objection citing conflict of interest on the part of the council chairman.

The anomaly was subsequently rectified after Mr. Adu agreed to remove his name as a signatory to the account.

Now Cal bank has been added to the list of banks where an estimated ¢ 600 billion are to be deposited.

Even so these facts still leave some questions unanswered: could Dr. Akor's dismissal have been a result of his principled stance against his chairman?

Did it also mean that Mr. Adu had the blind support of all the 15 members of the council against their executive secretary?

Some of them also accused Dr. Akor of running a one-man show without recourse to the council.

But are there any queries to back this claim?

Highly placed sources at the Castle say the president personally intervened in the conflict between Mr. Adu and Dr. Akor.

After a meeting with all the parties the president advised them to resolve their differences and work together.

However, days later Dr. Akor received his dismissal letter from Mr. Adu acting upon the instructions of the Chief of Staff on behalf of the president.

It is not clear how this development will impact on the National Health Insurance Programme as the registration process appears to be encountering some difficulties…..Back at the secretariat, the new acting executive secretary, Kwaku Agyeman Manu, who is already burdened with his work as deputy finance minister, has been holding one on one meetings with staff to get the hang of things.

He is hoping a substantive Executive Secretary will soon be found to relieve him of the extra burden.

So then one will ask: was it a prudent move to remove Dr. Akor, the man who is credited with the success of the NHIS so far without first finding his replacement?

But in all of these allegations and counter claims the silence of the president on the developments at the secretariat is most deafening as the success or failure of the National Health Insurance programme is hinged on a smooth and transparent operations of the people managing the affairs.

Not to mention the likely impact on the NPP's fortunes in the next elections.