HARARE – The Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) saga has taken a sensational twist with revelations that the minister of Labour Priscah Mupfumira, irregularly benefitted at the organisation by being transferred to a very cheap scheme meant only for lowly paid civil servants, investigations by the Daily News have revealed.
Last month, Mupfumira together with under-fire Health minister David Parirenyatwa, issued a bizarre and illegal directive to the Psmas board demanding that it reinstates suspended boss Henry Mandishona and it has turned out that the minister benefitted from Mandishona’s “kind heart”.
On Parirenyatwa’s part, it turned out that he could have been arm-twisted to issue the joint directive as it was later revealed that he had been given $100 000 while still in practice when the money due to him was far less than that.
The Psmas board was forced to reinstate Mandishona but reversed their decision after a member of the society approached the High Court, arguing that the ministers had no jurisdiction over the medical aid society. Mupfumira has reportedly opposed the application.
Now it has turned out that Mandishona authorised the change of medical aid package for Mupfumira from Pinnacle which is meant for ministers and other top-ranked government officials where they contribute $50 a month to Prestige which is for lowly paid civil servants where they pay $15 a month.
Mupfumira reportedly has three other dependents on her medical aid scheme, meaning that instead of paying $200 a month, she is now paying a paltry $60 a month.
Sources at the ministry of Labour, who are concerned about how she is handling the Psmas saga, yesterday said Mupfumira is probably the only minister on the cheap scheme, a development which could explain her desperate bid to have Mandishona reinstated.
Ministry officials yesterday showed the Daily News a trove of documents showing how Mandishona and Mupfumira organised the cheap medical scheme deal.
A letter written by Mandishona to Mupfumira dated August 3, 2015 reads: “Following our meeting of today, (03/08/2015) I enclose herewith the requisite Prestige Form for your completion in order to transfer you from the Pinnacle scheme to Prestige scheme.
“Once my office receives the completed form, it will be processed for immediate benefits. I take this opportunity to thank you for affording me the opportunity to meet with you considering your busy schedules.”
What has raised eyebrows even further is that Mandishona is reportedly due for a hearing at Psmas next week but in a strange twist of events that has left ministry of Labour officials stunned, his lawyers wrote to the ministry seeking a hearing for Mandishona and Psmas although he has not yet been fired.
The lawyers argued that 30 days had elapsed without the matter having been heard.
The letter, from Mandishona’s lawyers Atherstone and Cook, is dated November 3, 2015, and the ministry responded within hours on the same day, ordering the hearing at a time thousands of workers spend many years waiting for their hearings. The hearing has been set for November 10.
“This is a world record, the lawyers wrote to us seeking a hearing on the matter and this person has not even been fired yet the ministry of Labour is supposed to be for appeals when someone is fired.
Mandishona is only on suspension. We think it’s a ploy to make sure Mandishona will not appear for the Psmas hearing.
“Secondly, we have never had a case where a worker appeals in the morning and gets a date for hearing within hours when thousands others even die before their hearing dates.
“The higher offices are putting us under pressure and they want to reinstate Mandishona at all costs but we don’t know the reasons,” said an irate ministry of Labour official.
Sources said the labour officials who have been assigned the Mandishona case have come under severe pressure over the issue “from the top offices” to ensure that the suspended Psmas boss returns to work.
Ministry officials who briefed the Daily News yesterday, said they had been wondering why Mupfumira was fighting in Mandishona’s corner when she knew that legally, Psmas was independent from government and was a private institution.
In the letter from Mupfumira and Parirenyatwa to the Psmas board ordering them to reinstate Mandishona, the ministers said issues raised at the institution would be dealt with by a third independent party “to be appointed by ourselves.”
Ministry of Labour officials are now questioning whether the November 10 hearing is the one the minister meant by a “third independent party.’
Last week, at the pre-budget seminar of Members of Parliament in Victoria Falls, Mupfumira failed to explain to MPs why she was interfering in the Psmas saga but Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who is a lawyer, told the gathering that government cannot legally interfere in the organisation.
“We have no legal right to appoint people or dismiss people. We don’t have that right.
“It’s an organisation that is composed and owned by civil servants,” said Chinamasa who explained that Psmas was not a parastatal.
Chinamasa’s legal advice comes as Mupfumira is said to be battling to find ways to make sure the recently elected Psmas board is fired amid reports that she wants to appoint her own people.
Mupfumira was not picking up her phone at the time of going to press and also did not respond to text questions sent to her.
Lawyers yesterday told the Daily News that what Mupfumira did not understand is that government’s contributions to Psmas and other medical insurance companies were employees’ packages not government money. – Daily News