Cash-Strapped NHIA Sponsors Football Teams

Recently-appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Dr Bernard OkoBoye, has come under heavy criticism following an initiative to have the Insurance Scheme sponsor some four Ghanaian football clubs, ahead of the start of the premier league.

Dr OkoBoye-led management, is being berated for the Authority’s decision to enter into partnership agreement with the newly-promoted premier league clubs at the time reports suggest, the NHIS is saddled with debts and facing financial challenges.

The four teams are; Nsoatreman Football Club in the Bono Region, Tamale City Football Club based in the Northern Region, Kotoku Royals Football Club from the Eastern Region and Tarkwa based Samartex in the Western Region.

As part of the deal, The Anchor gathered, the favoured clubs will have logo of the NHIS on their jerseys.

The five-year sponsorship agreement was concluded last week Wednesday, with Nsoatreman club being the first to publish the news on its social media handle.

It posted, “We are delighted to announce a 5-year sponsorship deal with #NHIS.”

“Apart from monetary commitment from NHIS, they will also be available at our stadium on Match days to register first 100 people pay to enter the stadium for all our home matches”, the club posted with pictures of Dr OkoBoye and it officials.

But the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Deputy Youth Organizer, Eric Edem Agbana, is outraged over the move, kicking against the deal which has been described by the CEO as ‘smart’.

He alleged that the Scheme owes service providers and at the moment choking on debts.

According to the young politician, it is a misplaced priority that the Scheme will embark on such an initiative, when it has defaulted in many instances in paying service providers their claims.

In a social media post days ago, MrAgbana wrote, “On the NHIA sponsorship of football clubs. Dr Okoe Boye and his defenders have gone silent on the details of the financial support to these clubs; meanwhile, one of the clubs emphatically stated yesterday that the sponsorship includes ‘financial commitments’”.

He explained further, “My issue. The NHIA depend largely on taxes to run the authority.

The scheme is suffocating in debts. Most of the district offices of NHIA are poorly resourced, some don’t even have basic equipment to work. The scheme owes many service providers, many of them threatening to withdraw their services.

“How can you be surviving on taxes, and use proceeds to sponsor a private organization like a football club?  It simply doesn’t make sense, and no leader worth his salt takes such terrible management decisions”, Agbana charged.

In another post, sighted by The Anchor, the NDC Deputy Youth Organizer added that, “Dr OkoeBoye has released some folks to attempt to respond to my earlier post about the ridiculous decision to use NHIA funds to sponsor privately-owned football clubs.

They argue that – it is 4 clubs that are benefiting from this arrangement, so I should not focus on Nsoatreman FC.

It makes their case worse. It doesn’t even matter who owns the club…

For a scheme that has defaulted in paying arrears owed service providers, a scheme with poorly resourced offices across the country, in the wisdom of Dr OkoBoye, the best thing is to spend on sponsoring football clubs and you have young people defend this joke of a decision. Its midnight… I will be back”.

A contributor in one of MrAgbana’s posts, alleged “Am an accountant at a health Facility come n see how we are suffering; NHIS is even owing my facility for October 2018 claims submitted Four yrs now”.

The young politician had questioned initially whether, NHIS was sponsoring Nsoatreman because the club belongs to the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations Ignatius Baffour Awuah and it has the Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs as it Board Chair.

“It appears every member of this government wants to leave a legacy of scandal. The latest is Dr OkoBoye. How can a scheme suffocating financially give sponsorship to a privately owned football clubs?

Is it because Nsoatreman FC is owned by Ignatius Baffour Awuah, NPP MP for Sunyani West and Employment Minister, the Board chairman is Majority Leader and Suame MP, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu? Or what merit did the team qualify for such support if not for it owner? Shameless folks in government, always looking for the opportunity to USE state resources for their private benefits”, Edem fired.

The Anchor is aware another politician on the board is NDC MP for Ododdodiodio, Edwin NiiLanteVanderpujie, who is also a former Minister for Youth and Sports.

No Wrongdoing

However, reacting to the accusations and insults, Dr OkoBoye on Metro TV’s Good Morning Ghana programme on Thursday, September 1, monitored by The Anchor, absolved the Scheme of any wrongdoing.

According to the physician, the contract agreement is different from others that are known. While refuting any monetary commitment in the deal, Dr OkoBoye said the Scheme is looking forward to register players, technical teams and their supporters for these clubs.

“What we are doing at Health Insurance is to cover their players and technical team and their supporters. We are looking at average 10 thousand people related to the clubs to register them on to the health insurance, we will register them, we will pay for their registration.

It is something we do from our operational budget to drive up registration we usually allocate funds to some of our districts to undertake special registration so all of them instead of random, periodic selection, we have zeroed in on the communities especially the home base of these clubs, so that we will dedicate some of the operational funds to drive up registration”, he claimed.

The former Member of Parliament (MP) for the Ledzokuku Constituency, gave more reasons why the partnership was apt citing his personal experiences when it comes to health issues with footballers and their clubs.

He told host of the show, Dr Randy Abbey, absolutely no money was handed to the clubs even though EdemAgbana insists there is monetary commitment.

Dr OkoBoye further explained what the deal entails and what their expectations are adding with time, the deal will be extended to cover all other clubs in the premier league.

“Now I have experienced footballers before when they are sick or their wives are sick. They ask you for cash to pay out of hospital but if they are insured by us, it saves the club, medical bills.

So virtually, we are being smart by partnering organizations or entities. Yesterday as at the time they visited us, not a dime went into their hands.

In fact, we are allocating an average of two hundred thousand Ghana Cedis annually and the two hundred [thousand Ghana Cedis] is expected to register minimum, 10 thousand people, maximum 20 thousand people for each club.

But anytime we do special registration, we have allowances we give our staff for food and inconvenience because sometimes, they go on weekends.

So, 150, 000 has been earmarked for the actual payment of premium and processing fee and then 50 thousand for our staff. So, this is serious innovation, this the first. There is a lot of promise with this partnership I believe strongly that we will scale it up to cover almost all the clubs”, he added.

Source: Anchorghana

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