President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday announced the launch of the new Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum (HSACF) at the Union Buildings in Tshwane.
Ramaphosa said the forum would “serve as a deterrent” to the corruption that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize admitted would be a “threat” to his new National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which aims to provide universal healthcare for South Africans, but has been met with a backlash from those predicting that its implementation will be disastrous.
“As South Africa prepares to implement universal health coverage through the National Health Insurance Bill, proactive measures through the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum will serve as a deterrent to ensure the appropriate standards of governance and accountability leading to the full roll-out of NHI,” said the presidency.
According to the presidency, the forum “is a collaboration among various stakeholders in the fight against fraud and corruption in the health sector who will together to prevent, detect, and prosecute fraud and corruption”.
In a statement, the presidency added that the forum was established following the signing of the Presidential Health Summit 2018 Compact which called for government and “social partners” to reform the SA healthcare sector.
“The health sector – public and private – is vulnerable to fraud and corruption because of large and varied numbers of transactions on goods and services in terms of fraudulent orders, tender irregularities, fiscal dumping by government departments through non-governmental organisations, bribery, over-pricing, poor governance, transfer of liabilities to the state, and bogus and fraudulent qualifications.”
The Presidential Health Summit 2018 Compact also called for a “whistle-blowing policy” to be developed to encourage people to report wrongdoings in the health sector to the authorities and to declare political interference a corrupt activity.
Those signing onto the new forum as stakeholders are the Special Investigating Unit, the national department of health, the Council for Medical Schemes, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Health Funders Association, the Health Professions Council of South Africa, Corruption Watch, the National Prosecutions Authority, Section 27 and the board of Healthcare Funders of Southern Africa.
The Citizen reported earlier on Tuesday that as the R4-billion pilot phase of the NHI, which cost draws to a close, patients, residents, and community leaders in the Gert Sibande district in Mpumalanga lamented what they described as the failure of the new system to improve health care in their region.
The public hearings into the NHI Bill will take place in Mpumalanga in October before moving to the Northern Cape in November.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Sipho Mabena.)