Dr Amit Thakker

The president of the Africa Health Federation, Dr Amit Thakker, has called for the establishment of an Africa COVID 19 Discipline Index as a means to root out corrupt individuals and institutions taking advantage of situations presented by the epidemic.

This Discipline Index, he told participants in the fifth BHF Dialogue Session webinar held earlier today, would feature all countries in Africa broken down into their public and private sectors which in turn would list the names of institutions and individuals within these sectors ‘who have created damage to their country by the misuse of tax funds and by creating gaps that would have helped many more lives’.

“We have heard numbers like 30bn in South Africa and 10bn in countries like Kenya,” he continued, acknowledging from this that there were many poor public sector leaders and many private sector errant players who needed to be listed: “We need to have a list of shamings in Africa, a great opportunity therefore to flag these individuals and institutions and possibly to also look at which ones need to be put behind bars!

“No-one should be spared, right from the head of state to the ministries of health, the minister,” he added, “and private sector entities misusing other people’s money for power to actually promote death and mortality across Africa!”

The private sector, said Thakker, was very well positioned now to take on this partnership, to push this agenda of appropriate leadership. Elaborating, he explained that, although fairly new as a continental body, the Africa Health Federation had 20 years’ experience unifying healthcare institutions across Africa.

“The federation is now at the forefront of the ‘pushing transparency and sparing no-one’ agenda,” he said, reminding his audience that South Africa already has a unified entity in the form of the Health Federation of SA formalised last year.

“This body,” he stressed, “should be the only entity brought to the table when discussing healthcare issues with minister of health. If not, the whole exercise will be a total failure. You must find people jostling for positions just because they have close relationships either previously or somehow intertwined – this is the beginning of graft. When we have weeded out these type of relationships, health has improved and life has improved.

“We also have to be very clear about who represents the private sector because some who claim to represent the sector might have self-interests.”

Another critical need was a ‘fit for purpose’ ministry of health led by the minister: “If the ministry is not fit for purpose they should step aside,” he suggested, a decision which should be based on scores given by stakeholders including community CSOs and the private sector.

Concluding, Thakker stressed the need for constructive public private sector engagement: “Everyone involved with this pandemic must understand that they are on the same side, all have a common enemy. So it’s time to work together facing the same direction with a clear introspection and reflection on what’s working and what’s not because we are not going to have a so-called post-COVID era.

“I firmly believe we must stop talking about a post-COVID era. We need leadership to design a  health strategy that enables us to live with COVID, allows us to prepare our health systems to be resilient with COVID and COVID-like pandemics in future – not affecting our economy, so that our schools, work places and our trade levels continue to be upheld despite pandemic that we may see.

“This is what, I believe, will provide the largest game-changing public private partnership on our continent for healthcare.”