Sylvester Mensah is head of NHIA
Our attention has been drawn to allegations made on Joy fm’s 6pm news on Friday 22nd June, 2012 by the Deputy General Secretary of the Union of Industry Commerce and Finance workers (UNICOF), Mr John Esiape, to the effect that salaries of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) staff have been slashed.
The statement further alleged that the lack of health insurance coverage for staff had led to the death of a member of staff.
The NHIA wishes to assure all staff, other stakeholders and the general public that these allegations are false. The Authority has never slashed salaries, nor is it contemplating any reduction in the salaries of staff of the NHIS/ NHIA.
The facts of the matter:
The NHIA transfers money to district offices/ schemes for the payment of the basic salaries of employees. The schemes through their internally generated funds pay allowances of staff to make up for the gross salaries of staff each month.
Management over the last couple of months had been engaged in negotiation with the Union of Industry Commerce and Finance workers (UNICOF), the Union legally mandated to negotiate on behalf of the members of the Union (which is the mother union of some scheme staff). The issues at the centre of the negotiations were proposals for the review of the allowances mentioned above and other provisions which were presented by the Union to Management for consideration. The negotiation was concluded in April 2012 but the agreement took retroactive effect from January 2012.
Whilst the negotiation was ongoing between Management and the Union, some Union executives of the same UNICOF at the Regional and District level, unilaterally put together another set of what they described as “Regional conditions of service” and together with some Scheme Managers and Care Taker Committee Chairmen, the schemes started implementing the “conditions of service” they had unilaterally drawn up, without the knowledge or consent of Management, and aside of the negotiation between the NHIA and their mother Union.
This illegal practice came to the attention of Management after audit exercises were carried out in some of the schemes.
Following that revelation, Management wrote to the Mother Union to notify them of the unlawful act by their members at the district level. The mother union is yet to offer any response.
Further to that, a circular was issued to all Care Taker Committee Chairmen of Schemes across the country directing them to halt the payment of any monies based on the illicit “conditions of service” since it was done without recourse to management or the Standing Negotiating Committee
This action by Management, to stop the misappropriation of public funds through the payment of illegitimate benefits outside the Collective Agreement and duly approved conditions of service, is what the Union describes as reduction in salaries by GHC 900. This measure, the Union claims, will lead to the collapse of the scheme.
Non implementation of agreed benefits and salaries since January 2012:
The Union further claims that Management has refused to implement benefits and salaries agreed between them and Management since January 2012.
This is also untrue. The only agreement regarding benefits reached between Union and Management is the Collective Agreement which took effect from January 2012. However, both parties agreed as per a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both parties dated 11th May, 2012, that some provisions in the Collective Agreement which are mainly allowances, such as per diem, transport, funeral etc, either take effect from the date of signing (April 2012) or from May 2012. These have duly been fully implemented.
With regards to salary increment for the year 2012, we wish to state that there has not been any agreement or negotiation. As a matter of fact the Union is yet to present its proposal for the 2012 salary review. It is therefore untrue that Management has refused to implement agreed salary increments since January 2012.
Lack of health coverage for staff leading to the death of a member of staff:
Per the Collective Agreement between the Union and Management, employees have access to health care under the NHIS. Under the provision, Management bears the cost of registration and renewals on behalf of staff and their dependants. The two parties further agreed that management would consider cases of ailments that are not covered by the NHIS Benefits Package. Currently the exclusions list applies to both staff and subscribers.
Regarding the unfortunate incident of the death of an employee, the issue of the health status of a particular employee suffering from a chronic disease not covered by the NHIS was brought to the attention of Management very late and the employee in question died a few days later. That unfortunate incident could not be blamed on management.
The action taken by management as explained above is aimed at preventing the misappropriation of public money. This would obviously not collapse the scheme as is being falsely claimed. It would be an abdication of responsibility not to take such corrective action in the light of the foregoing explanations.
The alarmist claims are a calculated attempt by the Union to incite staff, gain undue public sympathy, cover up for their unlawful misappropriation of public funds, cause staff and public disaffection and unease about the NHIS. Such actions bring the Authority and the Scheme into disrepute and undermine public confidence in the NHIS.
It would be prudent not to politicize the NHIS and undermine public confidence in a national institution that is acclaimed globally for its worth and rising profile as a model for other countries, and serves as a healthcare safety net especially for the poor and vulnerable in society.
Issued by Strategy & Corporate Affairs Directorate
National Health Insurance Authority