Deputy minister of finance and public enterprises Maureen Hinda-Mbuende has accused the Namibia Revenue Agency (Namra) of failing to investigate the main players involved in alleged fraud at the state-funded medical aid, which has paid over N$1 billion to ‘ghost’ beneficiaries in two years.
She says the Public Service Employee Medical Aid Scheme (Psemas) should be administered by government officials instead of private entities.
Psemas is fully funded by the government, falling under the finance ministry, where Hinda-Mbuende is the deputy political head.
The Namibian last week reported about a June 2023 Deloitte report which states that the government has paid N$1 billion for medical aid services to non-existent members who are not registered as beneficiaries with the finance ministry.
“Namra has had the information since December 2022, but I have not seen any action.
“They are just chasing small fish, such as part-time farmers, but none of those paid by the government, and are not even paying over value-added tax (VAT), let alone income tax,” Hinda-Mbuende says.
“Namra is fully aware of it, but yes, we are managing perceptions, not real issues.
“I was told that the Namra Act does not make reference to a deputy minister, and that information is confidential, and only for the minister.
“I don’t even want information. I want to see them acting,” she says.
The deputy minister claims the tax agency is selective in its approach.
“I know about the ongoing abuse,” she says.
Hinda-Mbuende is calling for a commission of inquiry on the abuse of the government’s medical aid.
She says she believes it is the only way to resolve the state of disarray the government finds itself in.
“It is my wish that we get a commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of the issues,” she says.
This is carried out to enable investigations into matters of public concern in a public area other than an ordinary court.
They are also aimed at encouraging transparency through fact finding and providing input for future investigation or criminal proceedings, if necessary.
“That is my view, which is obviously not popular. If we want to resolve the matter, we can. Some cornershop-sized pharmacies are claiming millions, including VAT, but not paying VAT over,” she says.
BRING IT BACK
One of Mbuende’s solutions is to return the administration of Psemas to the ministry.
“What we need to do is reincorporate Psemas’ administration into the ministry of finance, and do away with paymasters,” she says.
“The contract of the administrator is about to lapse and should not be extended.”
Methealth, which administers over 297 000 Psemas beneficiaries, was initially awarded the tender to do so in 2010 for a four-year period.
But during the last eight years, no new tender has been awarded, with Methealth administering Psemas on an annual extension basis.
Methealth has declined to answer The Namibian’s questions and has threatened to take legal action if this report is published.
Namra commissioner Sam Shivute says the agency has confidentiality clauses.
“If it is true that such allegations are coming from the ministry of finance, we will address such allegations at the established platform, but we will never address the ministry or our internal stakeholders through the media,” he says.
“There are confidentiality clauses in various acts administered by Namra which prohibit Namra officials from sharing information or our work related to taxpayers which are under our audits or investigations,” he says.
Shivute says the agency cannot comment on the Deloitte report.
“We are unable to comment on the Deloitte report, because it was never submitted to Namra. With regards to the allegations against Namra attributed to the deputy minister, I would like to inform you that the ministry is the line ministry to which Namra reports as dictated by the Namra Act.
“There is an established channel where we engage and brief the minister and top leadership of the ministry on a monthly basis on the revenue performance,” he says.
“Namra will continue carrying out its mandate in accordance with the relevant revenue laws and tax principles without fear or favour. We will continue serving with passion,” he says.
Hinda-Mbuende was appointed by president Hage Geingob to deputise finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi in April 2021.
Before that, she served as the deputy minister of international relations.
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