HARARE – Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) board members faced two hours of angry questioning at the annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday, as they were forced to defend the company against accusations of astronomical compensation for top management.
The board for Psmas — Zimbabwe’s largest medical aid society by subscription — awarded themselves at least $50 000 each in sitting allowances in 2016.
The board, chaired by Jeremiah Bvirindi, defended the expenditure saying they had to hold several meetings as they were trying to solve the long-running crisis and had to convene meetings with auditors.
“This is why we were saying we no longer want this board.
“If you look at these figures, you can divide and it’s clear to see that each director is getting $50 000 per annum, we are educated and can see. Whatever explanation you give, but it’s $50 000 per year? This is our money.
“Before you give us a breakdown, can you please justify the increase from $431 989 in directors’ fees in 2015 to $601 738 of directors’ fees in 2016. Please justify, what sort of travelling did you do, and what results came out of these expenses?” fumed Psmas member Tendai Chirawu.
“During last year’s AGM, we looked at the board’s allowances and you told us that since it was your first year, you held several meetings.
“Now, the expenses are high and we don’t really understand why they are up? We want results from you; we want members to be attended to when we visit health institutions,” weighed another member, Enock Dongo.
Bvirindi said the fees were not for board sittings only but also covered other meetings.
“The figure is not in relation to directors’ fees in terms of sitting allowances, no, it also includes evaluation meetings, it also includes even training, it includes meetings to do with reports, and the sitting allowance is $400. The figures are there for inspection, anyone can see.
“The Ernest and Young report had a lot to do with governance. At the same time, the board had to come up with this strategy and these are all expenses over and above the board evaluation to make sure that we are in the right direction,” he said.
Some of the members called for the dissolution of the board.
The current board took over after Psmas was rocked by disclosures of astronomical compensation for top management, with its former chief executive Cuthbert Dube, who was forced to retire, earning a monthly salary amounting to over a quarter of a million dollars.
This triggered public outrage and government intervention given that most of the institution’s 800 000-plus members are State employees.
The AGM was then adjourned to allow the courts to make a determination whether the issue of the dissolution of the board should be included on the AGM agenda.
“Notice of the AGM was given in January and on the 8th of June, MD received a letter from legal practitioners representing a certain group of members of the Psmas society to the fact that they wanted an item to be included for the AGM; ‘dissolution of the current board’ for reasons they stated in the letter.
“But this fell short of the strict terms of the Psmas constitution that gives provision of a time limit of least 30 days before the meeting,”
Psmas board member Jameson Mukaratirwa said.
“Now the matter was taken to court and will be heard by Justice Priscilla Chigumba on Friday at 10:30am.”