Government has come under fire for allocating a huge chunk of the Ministry of Health (MoH) budget to the ministry headquarters at the expense of dwindling public health service.
Treasury has, in this 2017/18 National Budget estimates, allocated about K74. 1 billion to the ministry, which represents 6.32 per cent of the total budget estimates for the fiscal year.
However, ministry officials have bemoaned deep cuts made to the ministry, saying this will negatively affect operations of public hospitals.
Director of planning at MoH, Emma Mabvumbe, earlier warned the Parliamentary Health and HIV Committee that the ministry’s estimated budget “was too little to cater for all the needs in the public health sector.”
Of the current estimates going to the ministry, a whopping 78.96 per cent is for the ministry headquarters, leaving operation costs of the country’s public health facilities scramble for the remaining percentage.
According to a budget analysis done by the Civil Society Organisations for Nutrition Alliance (Csona), to an allocation of only K729 per person to access public health service for an estimated 16.4 million population.
But the per head allocated figure further shrinks if the K2.5 billion allocation going to the National Aids Commission (NAC) is excluded.
“If the NAC allocation is excluded as it will be for a specialist group of HIV-positive clients, then the per head allocation will be K 626 or about 0.85 US cents per head of population,” reads the analysis in part.
The report released in Lilongwe on Tuesday, also reveals that the allocation for personal emoluments and support to service delivery in the ministry’s budget constitutes 82.3 percent, leaving just 17.7 per cent for operational costs.
On the ministry’s Medical Supplies and Expenses Allocation [2017/18], the ministry headquarters has claimed about K10.1 billion as compared to the combined total of 1.44 per cent allocated for the referral hospitals.
The move seem not to have augured well with various health activists, especially after learning the country’s major referral healthy facilities continue to operate on meagre resources.
According to the analysis report, Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) has the highest allocation at K58.9 million and is closely followed by Mzuzu Central Hospital (MCH)which has been allocated about K40.5 million. Zomba Central Hospital (ZCH), at K32 million is next, with Zomba Mental Hospital having an allocation of K22.3 million.
Csona national coordinator Tisungeni Zimpita explained that the MoH headquarters is dominating the health budget.
“The hospitals are working on less than K5 billion per year, in the case of Zomba Central Hospital and Mzuzu significantly less than K5 billion. Is this possible to run these hospitals on these sums?” she quizzed.
In an interview, Deus Gumba Banda, chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV/Aids and Nutrition, was visibly alarmed with the revelations
“The findings could have really made a huge difference when the members of Parliament [MPs] were meeting ministry officials earlier,” said Banda.
While chairperson of Women Caucus in Parliament Jesse Kabwila wondered why government would prioritise procuring luxury vehicles and furniture, as observed in various ministerial and departmental allocations in the budget, at the expense of support to key sectors like health and education.
“We will ensure improved availability of medicines and essential medical supplies with the allocation for the central hospitals and also the K904 million for vaccines,” she said.