Ensure thieves of NHIF billions rot in prison

EDITORIAL |

National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) offices, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) has failed to live up to its billing. The health insurer has operated under a cloud for a long time and makes news for all the wrong reasons.

Chief Executive Officer Peter Kamunyo has revealed that the insurer loses Sh10 billion annually through corruption. Kamunyo’s acknowledgement that the loss of funds was accidentally discovered after some card holders became indiscreet is an indictment on NHIF in regard to safeguarding public funds.

It is in the public domain that problems bedevilling NHIF are internal. Some unscrupulous managers have deviated from their core duties to indulge in corruption. A seemingly porous accounting system allows private hospitals and clinics to siphon funds from NHIF. It is impossible that outsiders can infiltrate NHIF’s financial system without insider collaboration.

NHIF’s problem is not lack of funds, rather, inability by those entrusted with the management of funds to use the money prudently. NHIF members dutifully make monthly contributions, and where they default, are surcharged.

That notwithstanding, members often have to dig deeper into their pockets to buy medications because public hospitals do not have stocks. Indeed, this omission has led many contributors to question whether it is worth the bother paying monthly instalments when no benefit accrues.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has publicly decried corruption at Afya House, but that is as far as his lamentations go. Failure to act decisively flies in the face of efforts to achieve Universal Health Care goals within set timelines. Covid-19 has exposed how chaotic our public health system is, yet there seems to be little political goodwill to put things right.

Corruption must be fought with concrete action. Anti-Corruption agencies owe it to Kenyans to investigate and arrest those hell-bent on destroying our health sector.

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