MINISTER BLOCKS MPs MISSION TO SA
PHALALA FUND MESS IN SOUTH AFRICA EXPOSED AS:
Minister of Heath Sibongile Simelane has been accused of employing underhand tactics to attempt to stop the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to probe the administration of Phalala Fund from engaging in a fact finding mission in South Africa this week.
This is after the committee alleged to the Observer on Saturday that the minister tried to pull all stops to stop them from travelling to South Africa to meet the service providers owed by the Fund to an extent that they were instructed by the minister not to even board the airplane to South Africa early this week. The bone of contention was that the minister stated that they had no right to go to that country without her consent, something which upon reaching that country they found was neither here nor there. The Select Committee is headed by Somntongo Member of Parliament (MP) Sandile Nxumalo whose deputy is Nkhaba MP Menzi Dlamini and is completed by Johane Shongwe (Mbabane West), Saladin Magagula (Hhukwini) and Hosea MP Thulani Masuku.
Nxumalo in an interview with this publication this week disclosed that had it gone according to the minister, they would not have been able to uncover the rot they found in South Africa where it concerns the administration of the Fund and the lack of due payment to the various service providers. In what came as both a shock and disappointment to a number of Emaswati in recent weeks, Nxumalo reported in Parliament that South African hospitals had stopped treating locals transferred to them through the Phalala Fund. He disclosed that the problem is that government owes millions of Emalangeni to the South African health institutions.
On March 19 this year, South African health institutions are said to have stopped rendering health assistance to Emaswati under Phalala because government is said to be owing them huge sums of money. The situation is said to be dire to most Emaswati who are banking their hopes on receiving treatment through Phalala Fund. Over 100 of Emaswati are affected by the situation as they are said to have been brought back home because of the non-payment. Nxumalo was addressing Parliament in his capacity as Chairman of the Parliament select committee appointed towards the end of last year. The committee was supposed to finish its probe in January this year, but could not due to perceived lack of cooperation between government and Parliament. Nxumalo was giving an update on how they were conducting their probe into the alleged maladministration of Phalala Fund. He had revealed then that they wanted to approach the South African health institutions with an intention of pleading on behalf of the sick Emaswati to be attended to while government looked at means of settling the debts. The MPs probe team duly left for South Africa this week in a bid to negotiate with the health institutions on behalf of Emaswati.
However, the trip was not as anticipated as the minister reportedly tried to stop their trip, but in vain. Nxumalo also revealed that the minister called the contact person in South Africa, Healthshare Managing Director (MD) Tony de Coito, who was in Nigeria then, telling him not to receive them when they arrive there because they had broken protocol by embarking on the trip.
“The minister even called me in person and asked who had sanctioned our trip through a government minute, to which I replied that it was the PM as according to my knowledge it is his office that performs such a task. She told me that we were not supposed to go to that country without a supporting letter that she was supposed to attach to the minute for us to present to the South African service providers to be able to attend to us. It was in South Africa that we learnt that he had even called de Coito to stop us from meeting him. It was explained to us that we did not need any supporting letter from the minister to meet hence our meeting proceeded as planned,” he disclosed.
The committee chairman said they were left very disappointed by the minister’s move, especially because they failed to understand why she was stopping them from their mission to assist sick Emaswati to continue getting assistance in South Africa. Nxumalo thanked the Speaker of Parliament Themba Msibi and Clerk to Parliament Ndvuna Dlamini for their assistance in ensuring that their trip was a success. He also thanked his fellow committee members for standing their ground and not being intimidated by the minister’s underhand tactics. Minister Simelane, when reached for comment on the matter, said she was not ready to entertain anything coming from the committee at the moment. “As you have rightly said, this is a Parliament select committee and I will address them in Parliament. Parliament issues are dealt with in Parliament. Uma wena ukhuluma nabo esigangeni chubeka mine ngitobabona ephalamende (if you speak to them in shady places you can continue, but as for me I will meet them in Parliament,” said the minister briefly.
ACCUSED: Minister of Health Sibongile NdlelaSimelane.