The managing director of Bulgaria's National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Neli Nesheva, resigned on February 17 after a two-day row about end-of-year bonuses paid by NHIF to its employees.
She did not admit any wrongdoing, but said her resignation was in response to the "social tension" generated by the bonuses controversy. To become effective, Parliament has to accept her resignation.
The resignation came only hours after Prime Minister Boiko Borissov asked his party's parliamentary group to request Nesheva's resignation. "Neli Nesheva has worked very well, but one spoon of tar is enough to spoil a barrel of honey, as the saying goes. I will say it again, she has done a good job, but one action is enough to cancel everything else," Borissov said.
Nesheva has come under criticism in recent days after it emerged that she authorised end-of-year payments worth a total four million leva to NHIF employees at a time when the Cabinet has been emphasising the need for austerity and downsizing the bloated state administration.
On February 15, centre-right Blue Coalition MP Dimo Gyaurov said that Nesheva and her deputy gave themselves bonuses of 30 000 leva and 22 000 leva, respectively. NHIF initially denied that Nesheva received 30 000 leva, but did not specify whether she got a bonus.
"It's a reasonable question whether it is moral for the NHIF managing director to get additional bonuses in addition to salary during a time of economic crisis," Gyaurov said.
NHIF said that its 2700 employees received a total four million leva in bonuses. The money came from savings (such as when a hospital has vacant positions not filled by staff) and fines levelled by the NHIF, which receives all mandatory health insurance contributions that employees are required to pay by law and distributes the funds to hospitals and pharmacies (for subsidised medications).
Nesheva said on February 16 that her own bonus was only just more than 12 000 leva and showed no remorse for authorising the bonuses, saying that these were justified by the good work of NHIF's employees and "the stability that they brought to the system". The next day, before Borissov's demand she resigns, Nesheva had said that she would donate her entire bonus to charity.
She was appointed to head NHIF in April 2010; before that she was the Health Ministry's general secretary and head of the health care department at Sofia city hall when Borissov was mayor. As her predecessors, Nesheva's term as head of NHIF was repeatedly plagued by accusations that NHIF did not do enough to keep health care affordable, even if such accusations had more to do with the lack of reform in Bulgaria's health care sector than NHIF's own operations.