Johannesburg - The Treatment Action Campaign on Wednesday accused Netcare of trying to delay the market inquiry into the private health sector.

“After studying its arguments at the hearing we are concerned that it is primarily a mask to delay and intimidate the inquiry,” the TAC said in a statement.

“If this is an attempt to sabotage the health market inquiry it will not be the first time that powerful private interests have used their immense resources to hamper efforts by the government to progressively realise the right to access health care services.”

The TAC and its partner lobby group Section27 have monitored the court hearing of the case between Netcare, KPMG, and the Competition Commission in the High Court in Johannesburg.

Netcare has objected to the commission's use of KPMG's services for the inquiry on the grounds that there is a conflict of interest, as KPMG has previously done work for Netcare and had access to confidential documents.

Netcare on Wednesday denied that it was trying to delay the inquiry.

“To the contrary, Netcare has participated in the process from the very inception and continues to do so,” the largest private hospital network in the country said.

It said the legal proceedings initiated against KPMG were squarely about the company not abiding by a court order agreed to in October.

“We agree with the commission’s desire for the inquiry process to be conducted with integrity, independence, openness, and transparency, hence the need for KPMG to comply with the court order,” it said.

The court order compelled KPMG to identify and deliver any confidential information it had relating to Netcare to the company, and to identify employees who had had access to Netcare’s information.

“The KPMG breach of court order became apparent in December 2013 and a court date to hear the matter was expeditiously set for 6 January 2014.

“KPMG subsequently asked for a postponement,” Netcare said.

The market inquiry into the private health sector is headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo.

In April, Ngcobo said the primary focus would be to determine if competition in the sector was working or could be improved. The inquiry was triggered by concerns about the functioning of markets.

Its mandate is to find the likely causes of price increases and expenditures that tend to be above inflation in the sector.

The inquiry will make recommendations on appropriate policy and regulatory mechanisms to support accessible, affordable, and quality private health care.

It will also make recommendations on whether price-setting mechanisms are acceptable.

Ngcobo said a whole range of findings could be reached, including that the market is not functioning well.

On confidentiality concerns that some businesses might have, Ngcobo said firms were protected in the relevant legislation. The panel conducting the inquiry needed to be satisfied the information was confidential.

Dates for the inquiry have not yet been set, but Ngcobo has said that public hearings are expected to start on March 1. The final administrative guidelines would be published on August 1.