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Govt representatives sidelined at PSMAS

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Govt representatives sidelined at PSMAS

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The three Government-appointed board members at Premier Service Medical Aid

Society (PSMAS) are being sidelined on issues concerning the board they sit on as the

representatives of the employer who pays the bulk of the cash used by the society,

most of whose members work for the State.

The three are Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Mr

Martin Rushwaya, reprsenting that office, Mr Pfungwa Kunaka representing Treasury

which provides the bulk of the cash, and Dr Tsitsi Choruma representing the Public

Service Commission, the employer.

Civil servants have been complaining that PSMAS has failed its members who are

automatically up to date with their remittances since these are deducted from their

Government pay, but in some cases see their medical aid cards being turned away by

healthcare service providers who say the time taken for payment is far too long.

Some of the problems have been laid at the feet of senior management and board

members who are reportedly mooting diversification into other areas such as mining

and insurance, disregarding the society’s founding objectives, and who have also

introduced co-payments.

Addressing the media yesterday, Mr Kunaka said the three were appointed to the board

of PSMAS, to represent Government, the paymaster and employer, and by extension

the public interest. It is common in medical aid societies largely built around a single

employer for the employer to have representation on the board, although with a

majority of elected board members.

“Recent actions taken by other members of the board have brought matters to a head

for us, as those actions compromise the focus of the board on substantive matters

relating to the task of overseeing the correction of developments that compromise

access to healthcare by PSMAS members.

“Among these disturbing actions is the holding of caucuses to which some selected

members of the board are invited to the exclusion of others, pointedly members

appointed to the board by Government.

“Invariably, there is no clarity as to what the agenda of such caucuses are. That is not

the way boards are supposed to function, and certainly not the way good governance

principles are supposed to be applied,” said Mr Kunaka.

“We were surprised to learn from press reports that the chairman of the PSMAS board

received, and responded to, correspondence from the regulator of medical aid societies

in which the regulator advised that the annual general meeting scheduled for 30 June

2022 should be postponed to allow space for a forensic audit.

“Given the importance of that correspondence, the board chairman was under

obligation to consult the board before he could respond. His failure to do so, and his

subsequent failure to even explain that gross irregularity to the board, is serious cause

for alarm.

“The possibility that such unilateral action is the norm in the PSMAS board raises

grave governance questions that cannot go unaddressed,” said Mr Kunaka.

He said, some members of the board appear to have become conflicted, with

unfounded claims that Government, which extends significant funding to its

employees to support their access to healthcare through the PSMAS card, and which

has injected $5.2 billion into PSMAS since January 2022, intends to “take over”

PSMAS.

Mr Kunaka said, their energies in pursuing and disseminating that false narrative is

not accompanied by a similar focus on the financial governance of PSMAS, as might be

expected of a board that oversees the use of the large sums that have been disbursed to

address real problems faced by members.

“The leadership of the board would be expected to convene meetings to discuss such

questions as how the considerable resources provided to PSMAS both by members and

from the public purse should best be deployed to address the uselessness to members

of the PSMAS card, owing in large measure to the non-settlement of obligations to

service providers.

“The PSMAS board has played truant on its core business. We, as board members who

are being sidelined, and whose inputs on key matters such as accountability are being

summarily dismissed, believe that something very fundamental has gone seriously

wrong,” he said.

Mr Kunaka said they felt there ought not to be any significant divergence between

board members who are supposed to represent the interests of workers and the

Treasury, which secures those interests through regular and consistent disbursements

to PSMAS.

He said some board members have sought to deflect attention from the core issues

through ill-conceived posturing, and have even suggested that the historical compact

between Government and its workers on healthcare support through PSMAS should be

broken through a rechanneling of public funds meant exclusively to support access to

healthcare to arbitrary use or misuse.

“We would also like to dissociate ourselves, as PSMAS board members, from the

intemperate attacks on a statutory function that was instituted to oversee the correct

functioning of all medical aid societies in Zimbabwe, namely the Office of the

Regulator of Medical Aid Societies,” said Mr Kunaka.

“We cannot associate ourselves with the refusal to be regulated that appears to have

been instigated by some members of the board.

“For these reasons, we feel that our function, as members of the apex governance

structure of PSMAS, has been subverted and rendered ineffectual through pointed acts

of discrimination and the off hand dismissal of inputs that would assist the society to

get back on its feet to serve the real interests of PSMAS members.

“Clearly for us, this board has become dysfunctional as it has failed to play its

fiduciary and governance role,” said Mr Kunaka.Herald.

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