The Member of Parliament for Wa West, Joseph Yieleh Chireh has suggested that the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman Manu was unprepared when he appeared before Parliament on Thursday to respond to questions on the debt at the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Mr. Agyeman Manu had indicated that the Mahama-led government had overseen an GHC 800 million debt at the National Health Insurance Scheme [NHIS}, leading to a withdrawal of services by some service providers.
He added that he was unsure when the arrears would be cleared.
However, according to Mr. Yieleh-Chireh, the Minister did not make an attempt acquire the data required to answer the question despite the fact that the said request had been made two weeks prior to the encounter.
Speaking on Eyewitness News on Thursday, the former Health Minister stated that the current Minister’s unpreparedness led to a number of evasive answers when he addressed the House.
“My question to the Minister was for him to tell Ghanaians about what the government has done about outstanding payments to service providers. If he was prepared to answer the questions which it appeared he wasn’t he’d have told us the amount outstanding, the amount paid so far and what’s left. He didn’t any of this at all. The purpose was to get information,” he said.
“I don’t expect a Minister to have all this information in his head but this question was posed about two weeks ago. He could have asked the agencies responsible, to provide up-to-the-minute data on how much NHIS had paid to service providers.”
Mr. Yieleh Chireh said the Health Minister had no excuse for not having appropriate responses to the question posed as he could have inquired from the responsible agencies.
“If as a Minister, you are asked a question and the answer is in the Upper West Region, you’ll ask your agencies with the answer. The NHIA is in Accra so if there is a request for the state of the scheme he should be able to get it. The Minister didn’t make the effort to get the information. That’s my understanding,” he added.
“As soon as I posed the question, he would talk from his head and that’s not done. You are telling the whole of Ghana that this is what the Government has done so far. The question was when the outstanding debts are going to be settled but he didn’t indicate anything clearly. The Minister must be reading from an official script because we are talking about figures and payment to people. I didn’t see any official of his in the Chamber. Anytime a Minister is asking questions there’s an official there to support and supply answers the Minister doesn’t have.”
‘No urgency from Government
The President, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo, stated in June that his administration was working towards clearing the debts of the scheme within the next 18 months.
Parliament also approved the formula for the disbursement of the National Health Insurance Fund for 2017.
However, according to Joseph Yieleh-Chireh, the government hasn’t shown much urgency so far in clearing the NHIS’ debts to service providers despite it being a major issue during their campaign ahead of the elections.
“The NPP campaigned on this problem so I expected them to have urgency in dealing with the matter systematically but how many weeks did it take them to set up a Board? If they wanted to sort out the problem of payment, the first thing they would have done was to set up a Board to look at the payments but they didn’t do that. The urgency with which you handle the matter shows that you want to solve it.”