31 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Harare City Swindles U.S.$6 Million Medical Aid Subscriptions

The capital city's management has failed to remit US$6 million in medical aid subscriptions to the Harare Municipality Medical Aid Society.Council has not remitted subscriptions for two years although it deducts the money from workers' salaries.

The bungling has seen council workers, some who have gone for three months without salaries, forced to pay cash upfront for healthcare.

This is happening when senior council managers are reportedly enjoying huge salaries and benefits.

Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni yesterday confirmed council owed HMMAS.

"I received a report from the HMMAS chief executive and chairman on that and the challenges the workers are facing in seeking medical treatment. In the past week we have being trying to find a solution through the setting off of the debts.

"We have tried to find a win-win solution with the hospitals and doctors who owe council and are also owed by council through workers under HMMAS. We have approached some of them and they have agreed we set off the debts in that way," he said.

"There should be no excuse on this issue because a subscription is deducted every month and the money should not be diverted in any way. Once we have reduced the debt to manageable levels, I think council can start making timely payments."

The city employs 9 000 workers. An HMMAS official who declined to be named for fear of victimisation said services were deteriorating.

"The people at Town House have been inconsistent with their remittance and this is equivalent to prejudicing the workers because it is their money.

"The problem is with the city treasury department because that is where the transactions are handled. But it is obvious employees there act on directives and the money ends up being diverted," the official said.

Harare Municipal Workers Union chairperson Mr Cosmas Bungu said doctors were turning away workers seeking medication.

"They are simply told that you owe us and there is no way we can assist you," he said. Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers union chairman Mr Tafirei Murambatsvina said council should be serious about employees' health.

"It is not fair on the part of the worker to be denied medication yet he would have paid for that," he said.

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