General News of Thursday, 17 December 2015
The Majority Chief Whip and National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Asawase, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, yesterday mustered courage and castigated his own government for dipping its hands into the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) through the Ministry of Health to finance certain services.
According to him, the act was undermining the effectiveness of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The Ministry of Finance in the 2015 budget allocated a whopping GH¢837.6 million from state coffers to the Ministry of Health to finance goods and services but in the 2016 budget it has allocated a meagre GH¢3.6 million for the ministry. It has rather released GH¢92.8 million for other expenses which the Majority Chief Whip strongly objected to.
Alhaji Muntaka, who is also a member of the Health Committee of Parliament, seemed very serious in his argument on the floor of the house yesterday and even ignored intermittent ‘whipping’ and reminders by the speaker that he is the Chief Whip of the Majority side and also a key member of the Committee.
“Mr speaker, I am not on this occasion speaking as the Majority Chief Whip but rather speaking as the Member of Parliament for the good people of Asawase and also a concerned member of the Health Committee,” he stressed, prompting the speaker to interject that if he was not speaking as the Majority Chief Whip then he must as well find a seat at the backbench and not speak in that capacity again.
Muntaka noted in his contribution to approve the report on estimates of the Ministry of Heath that there is an already serious funding gap of more than GH¢417 million which the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) is grappling with and that a further ‘unapproved’ expenditure from the Fund which is not related to the insurance scheme would worsen the situation.
“Mr speaker, I think the Minister of Finance does not have that authority to spend monies from the NHIF not related to the operations of the NHIA and I therefore ask that parliament stops that expenditure,” he charged.
The minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) members strongly backed the argument of the Majority Chief Whip with the Member of Parliament for Manhyia South, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh – who is also a member of the Health Committee -calling on parliament to completely reject the report. He said if parliament did approve of the report, it would be endorsing an illegality which would be a serious affront to the dignity of parliament.
“Mr speaker, the NHIA law says that a month after collecting of the National Health Insurance Levy, the Ministry of Finance should transfer the money to the National Insurance Health Insurance Authority and also appear before this house every six months to account for the disbursement of the money, but the Ministry of Finance has failed to do any of these for a very long time,” Dr Opoku Prempeh said.
He stressed that the government had not handled the NHIS as the law says it should be handled, plunging the operation of the NHIS into avoidable crisis.
The speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, asked that the issue raised bothering on legality must be shelved until the appropriation bill is passed, but the report itself should be approved for progress to be made in approving various budget estimates.