Malawi has started repaying the K1.4 billion refund to the Global Fund on Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV and Aids by installments through the national budget, Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya has said.
Msowoya, in a written response to an enquiry from The Nation, also clarified that the refund amount due is K900 million and that the balance is manageable.
He said: “In the first place, the funds we [Malawi] were asked to refund was not K1.4 billion, but about K900 million and we have been paying off through instalments and what remains now is very little.”
However, Msowoya asked for more time to ascertain the actual amount remaining to be refunded.
Malawi recently stepped on the fund’s raw nerves after it used Global Fund allocations for unplanned expenditures, including buying unbudgeted for vehicles.
The Global Fund, which was one of the major financiers of National Aids Commission (NAC), re-channelled all funds to the Ministry of Health, Action Aid and World Vision after being displeased with accountability issues. NAC also failed to meet funding criteria.
The fund has approved release of $296 million (about K133.2 billion), the remainder to the 2014 to 2017 allocation grant of $574 (about K258.3 billion), to enable Malawi to relaunch its fight against the HIV and Aids, malaria, tuberculosis (TB) as well as health systems strengthening programmes.
The fund has for the first time asked Malawi to raise $8.5 million (about K3.8 billion) locally for buying life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) as a contribution to the final six months covered by its grant. The fund has also demanded a refund of $3.3 million (about K1.4 billion) the Malawi Government abused in the previous budget as a condition to access its grant.
But Msowoya said the money was not abused, saying the Ministry of Health used it to recruit health surveillance assistants (HSAs) and procurement of vehicles which were given to the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) for transporting drugs.
He said: “It was a mere disagreement on the way the money was used not that the funds were abused. Instead of buying smaller vehicles, Ministry of Health bought vans for transportation of drugs.
“Secondly, when the fund conducted an audit, some records were missing on how many HSAs were recruited and how much was paid to them. But when the records were made available, an audit had already been done.”
Some health and human rights’ civil society organisations (CSOs) have cautioned government on how it spends the fund’s grants, describing the recent conditions as a wake-up call to the nation.
However, government said yesterday it was ready to locfally source the K3.8 billion for ARVs.
Reacting to the development in an interview, Martha Kwataine, executive director of Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), expressed concern about government’s approach to the issue, saying it needed not to wait for “this crisis.”
However, she said as a country, Malawi has the capacity to raise the required funds if only wastage of resources within government machinery is reduced.
On his part, executive director of Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) Timothy Mtambo said Global Fund’s order to refund the K1.4 billion abused funds was no good news to the nation as it reflects badly on its governance and accountability systems.
But Maziko Matemba, executive director of Health N Rights Education Programme (HREP) who was among the CSO members that participated in the recent Global Fund consultations visit, said it would be a tall order for Malawi to raise the additional resources due to the low tax revenue government currently collects.