Nssa must not manage mooted health scheme

HARARE - The skepticism surrounding the mooted Natonal Health Insurance Scheme — to be run by the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) — is not without reason, given government’s proven failure to exercise financial prudence.

There is nothing wrong with a national health scheme as other countries are running similar schemes, and successfully too.

In the past year, Nssa had its fair share of controversy that led to a total shake-up of the cockpit team over allegations of graft.

In a way, to trust the same authority with running a national health scheme is being overly optimistic. 

Most government workers are members of the struggling Premier Services Medical Aid Society (Psmas) and for the greater part of the past two years, Psmas has been hopping from crisis to crisis while their membership failed to access medical care services from hospitals, except after paying cash upfront.

When Nssa introduced its compulsory pension scheme, it did help workers with some sort of plan after retirement.

However, it is how most government institutions handle their finances that makes people shudder at the mere thought of it.

Government-owned entities across the whole country — the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, the Cold Storage Company, Cotton Company, the Gran Marketing Board among others — have been looted dry by the very people placed to manage them.

Nssa has been no exception and the few voices of reason that have spoken out are not entirely lost.

Nssa’s investment policies have also been questioned, with the national insurer 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.

There is a lot of logic in the skepticism. The national health scheme is necessary but Nssa must not be allowed to administer it.

The pension fund has a 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.

Government must revisit the whole plan with a view of sanitising it by appointing reputable bodies to manage the national health scheme.

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