The Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, had a very tough time answering an urgent question in Parliament yesterday. The question stood in the name of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Berekum East, Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah, and it bordered on the collapsing NHIS.
Mr Terkper ended up giving conflicting figures which were seriously contested by the Minority members, with some of them, especially the questioner, thinking that the figures might have been cooked up.
The Berekum East MP had asked the minister how many payments his outfit had made out of the National Health Insurance Levy into the National Insurance Fund for onward transmission to health service providers since 2013, in view of the serious financial challenges facing the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
The minister, answering the question, said the ministry projected GH¢917.9 million in 2013 for the NHIF but GH¢828.4 million was paid – including arrears from 2012 – into the operational account of the NHIA; but in 2014, the government paid GH¢1.06 billion, including GH¢119.2 million arrears from 2013.
But the Minority, led by their leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, strongly challenged the figures saying that they could not be correct.
According to the minority leader, if the minister said the government budgeted GH¢908.8 million for 2014 and ended up paying a whopping GH¢1.06 billion, including GH¢119.2 million arrears, then ‘if one makes the deduction, the remainder will be GH¢941 million, meaning that there was an excess of GH¢30 million,’ yet service providers had been crying that since July last year they had not been paid by the NHIA.
The NHIA owes service providers over seven months’ claims, running into several million Ghana cedis, bringing healthcare service on its knees.
According to Dr Richard Anane, ranking member on health, service providers had given up to the end of this month to stop operating with the NHIS because they are in serious debt as a result of non-payment of the claims made by them, but the minister says such huge amount had already been paid by the government to cover 2014 ‘so where is the money?’
The Minority therefore challenged the minister to make copies of his prepared text and the documents he was quoting from available to members so that they could refer and make the necessary reconciliation of the figures given.
The minister was, however, saved by the Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, who asked him to take some time to reconcile the figures and bring those documents to Parliament for members to further scrutinise.
The Berekum MP, Dr Nuamah, told DAILY GUIDE that the minister’s figures were highly contentious and that he would continue to probe the figures thoroughly using other parliamentary means.
When Terkper was further pressed to the wall on the figures given, he said that the money had been duly paid but some workers at the NHIA claim some departments had misapplied some of the money and that the government is using all legal means to recover those monies.
He was again asked by the MP for Offinso North, Collins Ntim, what the ministry was doing to ensure that releases of the National Health Insurance Levy by the ministry to the NHIA did not delay in accordance with Act 852.
Replying, the minister said that Import VAT and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) 2.5% transfer were directly transferred into the National Insurance Health Fund but the transfer of the Domestic VAT component is usually done with a lag (some amount of time) to take account of operational processes for VAT collection and payments.
‘It is important to note that VAT operates on the credit mechanism and the final and effective amounts due for VAT into the Consolidated Fund, GETFund, NHIF, District Assembly Common Fund and Ghana Investment Fund, has to take account of import tax and credit and refunds, including most of Import VAT which is the reason the law allows payment into the Fund with a lag of 30 days,’ he said, pointing out further that when the amount is finally transferred into the Consolidated Fund, the Ghana Revenue Authority will then advise the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department on the exact amount due the NHIF.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr
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