Call To Align Laws Governing Health Service Board

The recently appointed Health Service Board (HSB) says provisions in laws governing them such as the Corporate Governance Act and Health Service Act should be put in order to avoid confusion.

 

By Kudakwashe Pembere

The HSB board was appointed in June this year by former Health and Childcare minister Dr David Parirenyatwa amidst calls for the board to work towards promoting ease of doing business in the health sector.

It is chaired by Dr Paulinis Ncube, a public health specialist with Professor Auxilia Munodawafa as vice chairperson. Other members include Mr Memory Nguwi a human resources expert, Dr Stanley Mungofa, the former Harare City Health Director, Mrs Sefe Bhebhe, a monitoring and evaluation expert and Mercy Gwaunza, a legal expert.

The Corporate Governance Act uniformly treats all public entities with a one size fits all approach as stipulated under Clause 2.

“Clause 2 defines terms that are used in the Bill. The term “public entity” is defined widely to include organisations of all kinds that are owned or controlled by the Government: constitutional Commissions, parastatals, companies and firms. The word “Minister” is defined to mean the Vice-President or Minister to whom the President may assign the Bill; the term “line Minister” means the Minister invested by the President or an enabling instrument with the responsibility for administering a public entity,” reads part of the act.

But the Health Service Act is there to, “provide for the establishment of the Health Service Board and its functions; to constitute the Health Service and to provide for its administration and the conditions of service of its members;  to provide for the transfer of persons engaged in public health service delivery from the Public Service to the Health Service;”

It however  boggles the mind how the previous boards operated without clear definition and interpretation of these two laws. For the new board to have a clear path on their mandate of promoting the ease of doing business in the health sector, they found it necessary to first correct the misalignment of the two laws.

The HSB also took to task representatives of the Office of the President, Ministry of Health and Childcare and Attorney General’s Office to look into the alignment of Health Services Act and Corporate Governance Act for clear cut outlines on their operations.

In their Manicaland survey done last week, the HSB was famous for firing health workers.

But in treating all public entities uniformly it strays away from the Health Services Act. In separate interviews on the sidelines of the new HSB induction with the new HSB executive chairperson Dr Sikosana, he said the act views them as parastatals which generate income like GMB.

“The corporate governance act do not apply to the health services board as mandated by the health services act. For instance some of the provisions are more akin to boards like GMB who are revenue generating and have business enterprises,” he said.

He explained that  they do not operate like income generating boards.

“Whereas we are only a board because we are called a board but our functions are those of a commission like the public service commission because we are the employer, because we don’t generate for instance, revenue,” said Dr Sikosana.

Dr Sikosana said some of the provisions do not apply to them.

“There is a provision that says remuneration should not be more than 30 percent of our budget. We have no control of our budget. We can ask for a requisite budget from Treasury on the performance and revenue generation of government they can give us much less. So it nullifies that relational proportion stipulated,” said the HSB chair.

Asked what should be done to fix this discrepancy, Dr Sikosana said the two pieces of legislation need to be adjusted. He said the initial plan was for the Health Services regulatory body be made a commission just like the Public Services Commission.

“It’s not a matter of what we want. It’s a matter of aligning the two. As I said, the Health Services Board came up from a recommendation that a Health Services Commission should be established.

“But then instead of that recommendation being implemented as such, instead of a health services commission being established, a Health Services Board was established whose functions are like a commission. So now the Corporate Governance Act does not distinguish between boards who are of a commercial nature and Health Service Board who are like a Commission,” he said.

HSB vice chair Professor Munodawafa told journalists that they are governed by the Health Services Act.

“We have an Act that administers us as a Commission. As it were when the Health Services Board was first suggested then instituted, it was supposed to be a Commission just like the Public Services Commission. But for some unknown reason, it turned out now being called a board. But our conditions of services are at par with the PSC,” she said.

She also said the provisions of the Corporate Governance Act are parallel to how they operate.

“Now this act,that came out it looks like its addressing boards not Commissions because it its applied to us that’s why you heard us saying there are issues of remunerations which are totally going separate ways from us because the Act covers people in Boards like GMB and all those other boards. It doesn’t include us as Health Service commission. It’s also because of our nature as a board we are a service board,” said Professor Munodawafa.

She said the Corporate Governance Act does not have any jurisdiction in their operations. “We don’t have an income. Nobody sees us as an income generating service. Although we are because if we are not healthy we cannot go to work but it’s an indirect way of producing resources that are not directly to us. So we cannot talk about that act covering us. It doesn’t.”

Members of the OPC Public Sector Modernization and Performance Management  said they will look into the issue noting the flexibility of the law.

 

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