Outrage over Nssa running new public health scheme

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s administration must not let the scandal-plagued State-run pension fund, National Social Security Authority (Nssa), run a compulsory scheme requiring all Zimbabweans to access health insurance. The planned move has drawn swift and strong condemnation.

Cabinet has approved the setting up of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) that will give the majority of Zimbabweans, including those in the informal sector and farmers, access to universal healthcare by making government responsible for providing at least an “essential benefits package” for everyone.

Resources for the fund will be collected through a Parliament special tax act, which will decree that all formal employers and their employees in Zimbabwe contribute a percentage of their income.

The NHIS Bill white paper, approved by Cabinet after it was tabled by Public Service, Labour and Social Services minister Prisca Mupfumira with the backing of her Health and Child Care counterpart David Parirenyatwa, puts the health scheme under the administration of the government pension fund Nssa.

This comes as Nssa — which has 70 percent of its investments in the equities market, has interests in 53 of the 60 companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, holding at least 10 percent shareholding in 12 counters — has recently been damned in a 2015 audit report by Deloitte Advisory Services. The audit report revealed that the pension fund’s executives awarded themselves salaries of up to $30 000 per month, housing loans of up to $2 million, and also incurred $10,3 million in tax interest and penalties on payroll-related items.

Nssa in August was forced to hire Elizabeth Chitiga as the new general manager, replacing long-serving CEO James Matiza, who was axed last year in October over the scandal.

There are also concerns over Nssa’s questionable investment policies, which has seen it reporting a 68 percent decline in full-year profit for 2015 after a $93 million asset write-down relating to its Celestial office park in Harare and a doomed Beitbridge hotel project.

There have been concerns that the State-run pension fund overpaid for the Borrowdale office park, while construction costs for the Beitbridge hotel shot up from $17 million when the tender was first flighted, to $49 million upon completion in 2014.

The Mugabe administration’s directive to let Nssa administer the scheme responsible for the health coverage of local citizens has effectively touched off a heated national debate that has reverberated through civil society and government.

Zimbabwe’s largest trade union federation and the Community Working Group on Health have both roundly condemned the government’s planned move, saying Nssa should not be allowed to administer the health fund. 

“It is so disturbing to hear that the government has agreed to the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme and that Nssa should administer it,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Japhet Moyo said in World Aids Day message on Thursday.

Moyo said workers wanted the National Aids Council (Nac), not Nssa, to administer the NHIS.

“We are not in support of that, instead Nac would be the best as they have an administrative track record in the management of such a scheme, just like the way they have been able to with the Aids Levy which has become a regional if not a global model with a number of countries learning from them.”

The Aids levy was introduced in 1999 and became effective in January 2000 and is bankrolled through a compulsory 3 percent tax levied on workers and employers. 

Conceived in response to the HIV epidemic and meagre government funding, the trust fund has exhibited a unique and substantive result in provision of life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

Despite a deflation caused by depressed consumer spending and decreasing external funding, Zimbabwe continues to make encouraging progress in providing access to ARVs for people living with HIV, including pregnant mothers. By the end of 2015, more than  232 000 people — about 40 per cent of those eligible —were receiving HIV treatment, up from only 24 500, or 7 percent, in 2005 and has also supported various community-driven HIV prevention, according to acting Health and Child Care minister Douglas Mombeshora.

Itai Rusike, executive director of the Community Working Group on Health — highlighting the impact of a growing debate that has centred on Nssa being allowed to administer the health fund — said the move was ill-advised given the pension fund’s stained background of giving paltry benefits to pensioners and investing in failed banks. 

Nssa has come under withering criticism for blowing $2,5 million on the now defunct CFX Bank, losing $45 million in the now shuttered Interfin Bank, and splurging $12 million on overpriced starafricacorporation shares and another $1,5 million on Africom Continental.

Rusike also called for Nac, not Nssa, to handle the health scheme, which he described as noble.

“We do not know how far the ministry has consulted with regards to its implementation but we strongly feel Nac should take a lead in its implementation instead of the proposed Nssa,” Rusike said at a Domestic Health Financing forum.

According to official estimates, only 10 percent of Zimbabwe’s residents are covered by private health insurance schemes today.

Although it is unclear how much the required insurance policy will cost, it is estimated patient claims will more than quadruple annually.
The mandatory health insurance move could also spur growth in hospital bed capacity. 

Comments (4)

The thieves are at it again, NSSA, what help does NSSA to the ordinary men.

thieves - 3 December 2016

Vanhu vaya vatanga futi. Aids levy is enough. We don't want all these taxes. They are just meant to enrich other pple. Under normal circumstances, it's the Min. of Healthy's responsibility. Matinyanyira. Apa NSSA yacho there is nothing meaningful it is doing. Aids levy yacho, some pple are just looting. Gvt pension yacho, I looting yoga yoga. Pse siyanai nesu. The next thing you will want 80% of the worker's salary. Bullshit

Smoothy1 - 3 December 2016

Ndizvo zvinoitika munyka inotongwa nechigure. Munyika chaidzo dzinotongwa nemitemo hakuna matakanana akadayi anoitika pasina action from the relevant authorities. Similar schemes are running perfectly well in many countries the worldover. Why is it that it can`t work in Zimbabwe ? Because the country is being run like a pocket business by Robert Gabriel the devil from Satan. He thinks he owns Zimbabwe.

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 3 December 2016

Thank you,very informative

Obat sipilis - 19 January 2017

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