A culture of impunity

03 April 2019 | Opinion

Revelations on Monday that the Public Service Medical Aid Scheme (Psemas) has been overspending by hundreds of millions since 2015/16 raises immediate questions about why this rot was allowed to continue for so long.

The proverbial emptying of the cookie jar has dragged the medical aid all but into the abyss. Finance minister Calle Schlettwein said the persistent fraud at Psemas has rendered it unsustainable.

As a result, government will now look to private experts to assist it in transforming the fund without hurting civil servants.

It was also announced the fund will no longer be giving contracts to service providers using work permits in Namibia.

During his budget speech last week, Schlettwein announced that Psemas member contributions will be doubled from N$410 million to N$820 million a year, effective from this month.

Investigations found that some pharmacies take cash payments from private members and then charge medicines to random Psemas members.

The scheme was also literally being milked by service providers who subject patients to unnecessary services.

Some private hospitals have also abused the scheme by admitting standard option clients without a recommendation from the Public Service Commission.

In some cases dependents over the age of 40 were still on the medical aid.

The finance ministry terminated 17 000 dependents over the age of 21 years in June last year and has roped in 34 interns, who will do a desktop audit review that compares Psemas data with payroll reports.

It goes without saying that this state of affairs is shocking, even more so when one considers that the hundreds of millions used to cover annual Psemas deficits were diverted from other government spending.

So bad are the shenanigans at Psemas that the International Monetary Fund released a report late last year that said the fund has been losing on average more than N$900 million per year to fraud, abuse, waste and collusion. Impunity is becoming more of a threat in Namibia every day and the Psemas debacle is living proof.