Health Ministry failing to service debts

MINISTRY of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) is reportedly failing to services its debts to various suppliers of goods and services dating back to as far as 2012, Parliament has heard.

By Daniel Phiri

The inability to service the debts is attributed to paltry releases by treasury and general poor funding of the health sector from the country’s national budget.

In 2018, Ministry of Health had demanded about US$1.1billion but only got about US$408 million which was later increased to about US$520 following threats to sabotage budget by Parliament.

Presenting the Public Accounts Committee report on the MoHCC on the 2015 appropriation and the 2011 to 2014 funds accounts in the National Assembly, Committee chairperson Honourable Paurina Mpariwa said there is a risk that the ministry might fail to offer essential services as suppliers will demand cash up-front.

“The audit observed outstanding payments to suppliers of goods and services amounting to US$46 254 732 and some of the amounts date back as far back as 2012 financial year. The figure shot up to US$70 112 498 in 2016 which is an indication that the ministry was not paying heed to audit recommendations.

“There is a risk that the ministry might incur litigation costs in the event suppliers consider legal action. In the event suppliers also consider demanding cash up front for supplies, there would be serious repercussions considering that the ministry offers essential services which concern the lives of the people.

“The Permanent Secretary admitted that it was failing to meet its obligations with suppliers of goods and services due to paltry releases by Treasury. Despite the existence of the Health Services Fund to augment budgetary allocations for the ministry, Dr Gerald Gwinji reiterated that the current sources were not in a position to cover basic hospital operations,” said the committee report.

According to Honourable Mpariwa, the committee heard that the MoHCC “creditors stood at US$50 million and the figure increased each year by over US$10 million while budget allocation were averaging at US$14million. The ballooning debt will in the long run impact negatively on the supply chain.

“The committee noted with concern that the situation in government hospitals was pathetic and was getting worse each day. The Permanent Secretary informed the committee that they were no longer able to provide some essential services,” she said.

Zimbabwe has not been able to adequately finance its health sector due to alleged lack of fiscal leg-room and this has resulted in the country depending on development partners to fund various health areas that range from HIV/Aids, TB and Malaria among others.

While development partners have concentrated mainly in treatment and prevention of diseases, hospital infrastructures have been left to crumble and have not been attended to in various areas across the country, especially in rural areas.-

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