- Delayed funding chokes MDAs
- Treasury fails to fund some agencies
Delayed release of funds has forced government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to suspend delivery of some critical social services to the public, including healthcare.
During random checks yesterday, several district commissioners (DCs) confirmed that operations had been suspended because Treasury is not providing the funding.
Ironically, the development comes against the background of public tax collector, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), reporting increased revenue collections, beating its monthly target in August 2016 by K6.2 billion.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Phalombe DC Harry Phiri confirmed that essential services and operations have been suspended or scaled down due to lack of funding.
He said the health sector was being given a priority “because this borders on the lives of people”.
Mchinji DC Richard Hara said the district health office (DHO) has suspended referrals of patients “because we cannot take fuel on credit”.
He also said the council has stopped implementation of periodic programmes such as the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and maintenance of teachers’ houses and school blocks.
Said Hara: “These are some of the key areas which have greatly suffered due to lack of funding. It is really difficult when there are no resources for the councils to deliver the services as required and needed by the people.”
An official at Mchinji DHO said the office has over the past three months been getting about K19 million per month, an amount the official said is 40 percent less than their monthly budget.
Said the official: “And this has seen us accumulating huge debts in foodstuffs and other essential equipment. If things don’t change anytime soon, I am afraid the health system will soon be collapsing.”
While confirming the developments in a telephone interview on Monday, Mchinji DHO spokesperson Kaphaso Nyasulu said he has no records on whether the office got the partial funding for the month of October.
In Chitipa, DC Grace Chirwa said the last time the health sector received funding was in September this year when it was allocated K10 million, which is half the Chitipa DHO’s monthly budget of K20 million.
She said: “And we received nothing in October . There is disaster here. People are dying. Let us not be selfish by giving false information.
“I feel that we should prioritise the lives of the people other than disguising that things are okay on the ground. We don’t have resources here to provide healthcare services. Everything has ground to a halt.”
Rumphi DC Lusizi Nhlane said failure by the Treasury to release the October 2016 allocation has seen the council “failing to implement various projects we had planned for this month”.
He mentioned education, health, agriculture, forestry “and other small sectors” as being the worst hit by the funding gap.
Said Nhlane: “The council is the headquarters of the district. Thus, any delay in
funding affects us a lot. We’re really affected because for us to implement these projects and programmes, we need fuel to travel. But all those have been halted.”
He said the council cannot implement projects with locally generated resources because usually such finances are “insufficient to enable us implement a tangible project”.
In Blantyre, the DHO has grounded most of its ambulance fleet due to lack of fuel emanating from reduced or lack of funding from Treasury, according to sources.
However, Blantyre DHO Medson Matchaya referred the issue to DC Bennet Nkasala who only said the problem was not unique to the district.
In an earlier interview, Office of the Ombudsman public relations officer Arthur Semba said their office has not been spared the funding shortfalls.
A highly placed source in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development confirmed the development in an interview on Monday.
The source said government is facing serious challenges to collect adequate resources to finance operations of the MDAs.
“The situation is very dire at the moment. I can’t even describe it. We don’t even know when funds will be released,” said the source.
MRA deputy director (Corporate Affairs) Steven Kapoloma said on Monday the Authority has registered a total collection of K58.8 billion.
He said: “This is against a target of K52.6 billion, representing 112 percent performance. For this fiscal year, the Authority has collected K121 billion against a projection of K112 billion, registering an excess collection of K8.8 billion.”
Kapoloma said the remarkable performance is on account of strong collections in Pay As You Earn, Value Added Tax, Provisional Tax, Excise Duties, Fringe Benefit Tax, Dividend Tax and Non Resident Tax.
The August collection follows back-to-back positive performances in June and July when the Authority also exceeded revenue collection targets.
In June, MRA collected K56.1 billion, beating the projected target of K54.3 billion by K 1.8 billion and in July, MRA collected K62.5 billion against a projected target of K59.6 billion exceeding the target by K2.9 billion.
He said MRA is grateful to taxpayers who voluntarily come forward to pay theair taxes on time for their compliance.
The Immigration Department, a source of non-tax revenue, has also reported K1.5 billion more collection than its target. The department attributed the beating of the set target of K4.2 billion to K5.7 billion, an increase of 136 percent, to public sector reforms the government is championing.
While confirming the delay in funding the MDAs, Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya on Monday said he was not in the best position to comment on the matter.
However, he emphasised that government was working towards addressing the problem.