CAIRO-Fourteen Egyptian legislators involved in alleged free healthcare abuses have had their parliamentary immunity lifted, prior to their being investigated on suspicion of squandering public funds by illegally offering free medical treatment to people who don’t need it.
The scam first surfaced two months ago.
“There can be little doubt that they are guilty of making money illegally and wasting public funds,” says independent MP Moustafa Bakri who first exposed the alleged abuses.
“Offering 1,316 people free medical treatment with one and the same ophthalmologist raises suspicions, especially when the Central Auditing Agency (an official watchdog) complains about the chaos in the Medical Councils,” he adds.
Of the 14 suspected lawmakers, 12 are members of the People’s Assembly (the Lower House of Parliament), while the other two are from the Shura Council (the Upper House).
They include Samir Zaher, the president of the Egyptian Football Association, and Islamist MP Mohssen Radi.
“The investigation was originally launched by the Minister of Health, who is concerned that these MPs will destroy this giant public-sector service with their flagrant violations,” says Hesham Sheha, the head of the Medical Councils, an affiliate of the Ministry of Health.
He added that some of the employees in the Medical Councils had been
quizzed by the Supreme Public Funds Prosecution, which, in turn, pointed the finger to the former head of the Medical Councils, four doctors and 15 administrators.
MPs who have already been quizzed vehemently denied they made personal profits from getting free medical treatments
for their constituents.
Arecent report has accused the 14 lawmakers of acquiring public funds illegally in the free healthcare-related scandal that has riveted the nation since July.
The report, prepared by a State-backed commission, says the legislators are responsible for squandering LE500 million ($89.4 million) of public funds by signing letters authorising free healthcare and taking the money for themselves.
MP Abdel-Alim Dawoud, one of the lawmakers purportedly involved in the violations, cries foul.
“The Minister of Health deliberately added my name to the list of suspected lawmakers in order to settle old scores, after I condemned the Minister (Dr Hatem el-Gabali) in the Parliament, because I accused him of destroying governmental hospitals for the sake of private hospitals,” Dawoud claims.
Shams Eddin Anwar, another lawmaker accused of involvement in the
purported, points the finger at MP Bakri, who uncovered the whole affair.
“Bakri is involved in this issue. He got approval valued at hundreds of thousands of Egyptian pounds for free medical treatment in violation of relevant regulations,” Anwar said in press remarks.
The public seems confusing about the alleged scam.
“The situation is chaotic and the absence of monitoring is to blame,”
Islam Magdi, a 54-year-old teacher, told The Egyptian Gazette.
“Many poor and limited-income people cannot afford medical treatment, because the prices have skyrocketed and the Government is unable to pay for them.”
There has been much furore over the Government’s inability to pay for the treatment of poor Egyptians in the nation’s hospitals.
As the Government’s coffers ran dry, millions of free healthcare seekers failed to get the treatment they needed.
MP Saeed Azab, one of the suspects, is very indignant about this latest escalation, saying he does not deserve this.
“We aren’t drug traffickers; nor do we steal State-owned land. We’re only working for the sake of God.
I’ve been done an injustice,” he adds.