By David Onjili
The government is preparing to oust representatives of teachers, doctors and churches from the board of National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), in a move that will give it greater control over the crucial body. A review of the NHIF Act by a government-backed Statute Law (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2021 will see the removal of three directors that represent teachers unions, the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) and faith-based organizations.
In line with the Bill, the Attorney-General will become an automatic board member in the cash-rich Fund, which collects more than Sh58 billion from workers annually. The Bill also gives the Council of Governors a seat on the board in recognition of the fact that health is a devolved function.
Employees and their unions have long argued that the NHIF ‘belongs’ to them as they, not the government, fully fund its operations. Being on the board allows employees to influence the strategic direction of the Fund through their votes on crucial decisions.
The current review reduces the board seats to nine from 11. They include a chair appointed by the President, and two seats for the private sector – the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) and the Federation of Kenya Employees (FKE). Voting power is shared equally between the government and the private sector, but with the new Bill, voting strength will shift to the State if Parliament approves the amendments.
Meanwhile, news of the provisions of the Bill have triggered a storm, with FKE questioning the decision to give a seat to the Attorney General.
“I am aware of the proposed changes but the rationale has not been explained. Having the Attorney-General as part of the board is anomalous. He is already an adviser to the government and should be removed from the board,” FKE executive director Jacqueline Mugo told media.
The NHIF had 8.466 million members at end of June 2019 – with 4.29 million drawn from the formal sector and 4.16 million from the informal segment.