Turks and Caicos health insurance scheme faces ‘serious issues and significant liabilities’

PROVIDENCIALES, TCI — Commenting on a recent report on the management of the National Health Insurance Board (NHIB) by the chief internal auditor, Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Governor Dr John Freeman noted that serious mismanagement of the NHIB or of other statutory boards could cause a serious run upon the budgetary resources of the British overseas territory.
“The need to address the issues raised as regards the NHIB are evident and are now being taken forward,” Freeman said.

In December 2016, Freeman commissioned the chief internal auditor to conduct a review of the management of the NHIB in light of what he described as “the serious issues involving significant liabilities that had arisen earlier that month”.

The TCI government transfers over $45 million each financial year to the NHIB in respect of payment of the TCI hospitals infrastructure costs, the treatment abroad programme and contributions for wards of the state. This accounts for a significant proportion of the government’s overall expenditure costs and, along with the contributions of residents across the TCI, requires prudent management and accountability, Freeman pointed out.

The latest development in the NHIB controversy that has been ongoing for many years resulted from an emergency request for a $6 million supplementary injection of funds from the government, which in turn refocused attention of the board’s management.

Local CPA and former leader of the opposition, Floyd Seymour, was appointed by the new Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) government as CEO of the NHIB but the current CEO, Zaneta Burton, the wife of Gordon Burton, treasurer of the Progressive National Party (PNP), which was responsible for setting up the NHIB in the first place when it was in power, claimed that her expired contract had been renewed verbally by former PNP finance minister Washington Misick.

Burton’s position in this respect was upheld by attorney general, Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, and Seymour never took over as CEO.

Burton’s mismanagement at the NHIB recently led to a protest sickout by employees.

Meanwhile, Freeman said that the report by the chief internal auditor in relation to the NHIB served to remind everyone of the important responsibilities placed on the boards of statutory bodies, responsibilities made especially weighty in those instances, such as the NHIB, where the boards are responsible for very significant financial resources with contingent liabilities for the public finances.

“Given the considerable financial impact statutory bodies can have on the government’s budget, it is crucial that CEOs and senior management as well as boards recognise their responsibilities in adequately providing oversight and management over these entities. Board members must be prepared to carry out the required governance and performance monitoring activities needed to ensure effective management of these entities. By extension, CEOs and other senior management officers must be prepared to be held accountable for management shortcomings,” he said.

In calling for a proper review of the statutory bodies, especially of those which carry the largest risks, managerial and financial but also reputational for TCI, Freeman has now insisted on full resumes being provided for all individuals nominated by the government for appointment to statutory boards, rather than simply following the advice of Cabinet, as he is constitutionally obliged to do in the absence of exceptional circumstances.

He has therefore reportedly been holding up appointment to statutory boards until the individuals present their background information; in other words, he is not just appointing names given to him by politicians without knowing who they are.

This is a new situation for the TCI and has led some local observers to question whether newly elected Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson is allowing the governor to run her government and effectively take over control of the TCI.(Caribbean News Now)

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