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Introductory Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the Signing of the Terms of Reference of the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum, held at the Union Building, 1 October 2019

Programme Director, Ms Khusela Diko,
President of the Republic of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers and MECs,
The National Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Shamila Batohi,
The Director of the Financial Intelligence Centre, Adv Xolisile Khanyile,
The Head of the Special Investigating Unit, Adv Andy Mothibi,
Representatives of the other parties to this agreement:

Representatives from civil society,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning to you all.

The first Presidential Health Summit which was held in October last year convened to find solutions to some of the concerns facing our health care system.

The Summit highlighted the importance that our government attaches to the health of our people.

In the Summit Report it states that corruption cripples our health care system and is therefore one of our key health care system challenges.

Corruption in the health system can take a number of forms, such as fraudulent claims, pharmaceutical companies inflating prices, over-billing by service providers and many other forms.  

Ultimately, fraud and corruption erode much-needed resources in the health care system - thereby denying people access to quality healthcare.

One finds fraud and corruption in both the private and the public health care system. The Council for Medical Schemes estimates that the total cost of fraud in the South African private health care system amounts to approximately R22bn annually.

One of the Health Summit’s proposed interventions was to establish an anti-corruption forum in the health care system, as an immediate action, and to expand the Special Investigations Unit’s anti-corruption efforts.

The Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum was therefore established to combat, prevent and refer allegations and matters reported from the health sector for investigation.

The Forum is supported by the SIU and Anti-Corruption Task Team.

The SIU convenes the Anti-Corruption Task Team programme that is responsible for the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum, which embarked on an intensive exercise to conduct Corruption Risk Assessments in various sectors. 

The assessments focused on those industries, sectors and/or institutions (e.g. health, construction, transport, mining, the finance sector, and so forth) which have a high risk, or specific vulnerabilities, to fraud and/or corrupt practices or activities.

The health sector was identified as one of the vulnerable sectors that require immediate attention due to its high exposure to potential fraud and corruption.

Key vulnerabilities in the health care system included, amongst others, doctor registration irregularities, medical aid fraud, fictitious claims related to doctors’ negligence in public hospitals, regulatory weaknesses in the health sector compliance enforcement, pharmaceutical companies collusion, non-compliance with medical waste disposal, and procurement irregularities, to mention just a few.

The common root cause in all the key vulnerabilities that were identified was collusion amongst stakeholders.  

Hence, the key mitigation plan is a multi-sector collaboration in the form of the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum.

The Forum comprises of a wide range of stakeholders, including health sector regulators, law enforcement agencies, civil society, and the public and private sector.

The main objective of the Forum is to collaborate with various stakeholders in the fight against fraud and corruption and to identify areas of co-operation to enhance the prevention, detection and prosecution of fraud and corruption in the health care system.

The draft National Anti-Corruption Strategy also puts more emphasis on partnership and multi-sectoral collaboration in the fight against fraud and corruption. To that end, the SIU is collaborating with various sectors and stakeholders to identify and implement strategic interventions to further mitigate the risk of fraud and corruption.

We are all familiar with the ongoing investigations by the SIU into collusion between persons suing government hospitals for malpractice and certain state attorneys who either settle cases that have no merit or deliberately lose cases.

We are pleased to advise that significant strides have already been made in this area. 
The work done  by the SIU has already led to, amongst others, the arrest of an attorney in the Eastern Cape relating to fraudulent medico-legal claims estimated to be over R100 million.

The attorney is out on R80 000 bail and the SIU has successfully stopped a further R39m in payments to him.  

The SIU also identified another 13 matters to the value of R53m in Gauteng relating to the same attorney and work in this area continues to be intensified.

In this regard, we also want to commend the role played by the media, whistle-blowers, organized labour, NGOs and other sectors of society in complementing the work of government in the fight against corruption.

As South Africa prepares to implement universal health care coverage through the proposed National Health Insurance legislation, proactive measures through the Forum will serve as a deterrent to ensure the appropriate standards of governance and accountability leading to the roll-out of the NHI.

Health is a human rights issue. It is a constitutional imperative to improve the quality of life and to free the potential of each person.

Yet no person can fulfil their true potential if they are ill, or if they have no access to proper health care or if much-needed health care resources have been siphoned off due to fraud and corruption.

There is a saying that “good health and good sense are two of life’s greatest blessings.” The Forum makes good sense in order to ensure good health - as we move forwards towards an integrated, unified and efficient health care system for all in our country.

I thank you.