The Zambia Federation of Employers says lack of consultation and adherence to laid down procedure by Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya has potential to make the National Health Insurance Scheme fail.

Recently, the Director General of the National Health Insurance Management authority announced that deductions from workers would begin by the end of this month.

At a press briefing in Lusaka, Tuesday, ZFE acting president Stephen Sikombe charged that the Ministry of Health was abrogating the provisions of the National Health Insurance Act No. 2 of 2018 by hand picking board members who should have been suggested by relevant stakeholders.

“The current board of directors has been appointed outside the provisions of the National Health Insurance Act No.2 of 2018 as not every person who has been appointed was nominated by the institutions that the act has provided to nominate members to be appointed to this board. Some people have been handpicked by the minister which is not only unacceptable but also a potential ground for litigation against the minister. Some of the institutions that the act has provided for to be on the board like the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants (ZICA) and the Health Professions Council of Zambia have no representation on the board and the minister does not see anything wrong with this,” Sikombe said.

“We wonder how the Minister of Health and his director general for the so-called National Health Insurance Management Authority has projected to raise K100 million from workers and employers based on one per cent gross payroll contributions without having reached an agreement with the workers’ and employers’ national representative bodies. This simply shows how the Minister of Health and his so called director general do not respect social dialogue and simply despise the important role that legally created stakeholder organisations of workers and employers play in national policy dialogue.”

Sikombe asked Dr Chilufya to be open to dialogue if the country is to achieve the dream of universal health coverage.

“If the Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya means well with the introduction of the insurance scheme, he should be open to meaningful dialogue with the key stakeholders on this issue so that we can move together to realise the dream of universal health coverage. Failure to this, the national health insurance scheme is going to fail as compliance levels are most likely going to be very low,” he said.

Sikombe also alleged that Dr Chilufya was not transparent in the recruitment of the CEO as the job was not advertised adding that the money that would be contributed would be squandered through high emoluments.

“One of the objectives of the scheme as stipulated in the act is that the creation of the scheme is to provide for sound financing for a universal health service in the country but if a huge sum of money is spent on administrative costs, it means that this objective will not be realised. Already we have some information that the salary of the director general of the national health insurance management authority is K170,000 per month and if this is true how much will be spent in total on personal emoluments when the full establishment of staff is employed. In any case, how can a health scheme that is meant to benefit members of the general public pay a huge salary of this much to it’s chief executive officer before the scheme even starts operating? How many of the Zambian people that will be contributing to this scheme are able to earn this kind of money per month? How many of our medical doctors or any other health professional currently on the government payroll are getting this much per month?” asked Sikombe.

“The director general in the name of Mr James Kapesa who has announced through the media that the government has projected to collect a sum of K100 million has been recruited by the Ministry of Health in a non-transparent manner as there was no job advert to the general public for the position. Equally, through our investigation we have discovered that no interviews were conducted to find a suitable individual for the position of the director general which means that Mr James Kapesa was just handpicked. If the Minister of Health cannot be transparent in the recruitment of the CEO by advertising to the general public and conducting interviews, how can we as employers and our employees have confidence in the Minister of Health that the scheme will be conducted in a transparent manner?”