The Principal Officer at Pula Medical Fund, Dr Thato Moumakwa says despite the challenges that are currently be-devilling the mining sector; the organisation is weathering the storm.
Speaking at a stakeholder breakfast meeting in Francistown on Friday, Dr Moumakwa admitted that the closure of mines such as Discovery Metals Limited, amongst others, resulted in them losing members, but this did not deter them. He said they are optimistic that the situation will improve.
Although sixty percent of Pula Medical Fund members are from the mining sector, Moumakwa said they are also looking at attracting members from other sectors. “Pula Medical Fund serves most of the mines in Botswana. Sixty percent of our members are from the mining sector. As at March 2015 the Fund had 18, 126 principal members whilst at March 2016 the number had been reduced to 17, 394. The significant drop in membership was due to loss of two major mining employer groups, Messina Copper and Moolman Mining,” he said.
“Despite this predicament, we are hopeful that the situation will improve and we have put in place some strategies to mitigate the challenges. It is pleasing to note that our income grew to over P190 million in the 2015/16 financial year as compared to the previous financial year (2014/2015). The increase was mainly due to the increase in contributions that effected in July 2015. We are also busy recruiting more members” he added.
The mining sector in Botswana is currently experiencing daunting challenges due to the collapse of commodity prices and more jobs are expected to be lost. Dr Moumakwa expressed confidence that they project to make at least a quarter of a billion (P250 billion) income from the contribution of their members by June 2016 this year. He however said that the Fund recorded a reduction in investment income of P2.2 million for the financial year 2015/2016 as compared to a P2.3million recorded during the previous financial year (2014/2015).
“Investment income is expected to grow at a better rate going forward post implementation of an investment strategy that was approved in February 2016 for implementation from the 1st of March 2016,” he said.
Among other important issues, he also revealed that Pula Medical Fund’s solvency ratio currently stands at 30 percent. He said the solvency ratio grew from 19% as at the end of the third quarter of 2015 to 30% as at the end of the third quarter in 2016. He further said this was mainly due to lower claims cost reported during 2015/16 financial year.
Presenting on governance updates, Dr Moumakwa said that the process to recruit four additional ordinary trustees for his organisation is ongoing and will include a three member group and one independent trustee. He said the objective of this recruitment is to bring the board back up to a strength of 10 members.
“The active board committees that we have include, Investment Committee, Risk and Compliance Committee, Remuneration Committee, Procurement and Asset Management Committee and Finance and Audit Committee,” he told the stakeholders.
For his part, the Fund Administrator from Pula Medical Fund, Duncan Thela said 85 percent of their members have already received their membership cards and the current acceptance rate of their Pula card is 86 percent. He further said that 90 percent of the respondents are happy with the ease of joining the medical aid fund.
“The other feedback that we got from our customer survey is that 79 percent of our clients believe Pula is their preferred medical aid provider. Ninety four percent are happy with the range of medical procedures covered by Pula,” he said.
Touching on communication issues he said it emerged through their survey that 94 percent of their clients prefer communication via SMS. He also said the clients cited that information from Pula Fund is sometimes too technical therefore 80 percent prefer Setswana as the mode of communication. He however said that they are working around the clock to ensure that all of their clients are satisfied with their service.
Pula Medical Fund serves organisations in the private sector, parastatals and Non-Governmental Organisations. The objective of the stakeholder breakfast meeting in Francistown was to interact and get feedback from Pula Medical Fund stakeholders in the northern region.