Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) executive director Harrington Chibanda says the Federation will not comply to the deductions of the government’s National Health Scheme because it is unfair and stakeholders were not consulted.

And Chibanda says Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya is being arrogant and dictatorial by going ahead to introduce the law without engaging stakeholders.

On Tuesday, Dr Chilufya told Parliament that deductions of the two per cent Health Insurance Scheme, from both employees’ earnings and employer contributions, would begin this month.

“Working with various stakeholders and Ministry of Justice, we are now finalizing the regulation, which will provide for the efficient administration of NHA Act N0.2 of 2018. The regulations will provide detailed procedures governing the registration of employers and beneficiaries, contributions, records and various related provisions. In line with signed collective agreement of 2018, deductions of one per cent or earnings of formal employees and matched by one per cent of employer contribution will begin in August, 2019. These contributions will be paid into the fund,” Dr Chilufya said.

“In sticking to the actuarial variations that are supposed to be the business case, four months waiting period is needed before commencement of service provision. This period allows for final preparations, and testing of the systems as well as accumulate reserves for solvency of the scheme. Further, also note that funds are not immediately required for payments will be invested in short term instruments to enhance solvency of the fund.”

But in an interview, Chibanda vowed that the Federation and its members would not comply to the scheme because they were never consulted.

“So, when you say by August, it will start, is he going to be in the office and start those deductions? Or he expects those who manage the payroll to be the ones to effect the deductions? And those are the people he doesn’t want to speak to. Is he being fair? So, our position as ZFE is that we are not going to comply. Our members of the Federation will not comply to the deductions that the Minister of Health is saying they are going to start in the absence of discussing the matter of contributions to reach consensus,” Chibanda said.

He added that it was arrogant for Dr Chilufya to proceed with the implementation of the scheme without consulting key stakeholders.

“We are the hub of the economy as industry that employs. The Minister of Health is being arrogant because he is not willing to discuss the issue of the National Health Insurance Scheme with stakeholders. We are the employers and you want to get network from the employers. That so-called one per cent you want to deduct from workers and from the employers has never been discussed with the employers and the workers. So, that is a dictatorship way of introducing a law in a country where there are several stakeholders. And it’s actually shameful that you can have a Minister of Health who thinks that he can just bulldoze a scheme to everyone without regard of getting the stakeholders to agreed on how best the scheme should run,” Chibanda said.

And he complained that government was squeezing the private sector excessively.

“The Minister is not willing to sit with the industry and agree on the financing mechanism. That one per cent, in our view, is too high and employers are over-burdened. We are paying Skills Levy at 0.5 per cent, it was introduced in 2017, not long ago. And then, we have a one per cent National Insurance Scheme? It is just not fair! The government is squeezing the private sector too much! The private sector should be given space to grow and be able to create jobs so that the people who are not employed can get employed and be able to have their own money in their pockets and even be able to pay for their medical services. Which stakeholders did the Minister engage? Let him produce the minutes for the meeting he had when he engaged stakeholders and show us who, from the ZFE, attended that meeting and committed the employers to paying one per cent towards the National Health Scheme,” said Chibamba.