Paidamoyo Chipunza and Sibongile Maruta
The Ministry of Health and Child Care owes nearly $50 million in unpaid goods and services and the debt has been increasing by $10 million each year against a budgetary allocation averaging $14 million, the Public Account Committee has said.
Presenting its report on the 2015 appropriation and the 2011 to 2014 fund accounts to members of the National Assembly in Parliament on Tuesday, chairperson of the Committee legislator Paurina Gwanyanya-Mpariwa said they noted serious discrepancies, particularly in accounting and management of fuel allocations, medicines, equipment procurement and vehicle tenders.
She said the debt might end up compromising service delivery if it continued ballooning.
Mrs Gwanyanya-Mpariwa said the committee learnt that some of the debts went as far back as the 2012 financial year.
“There is a risk that the Ministry might incur litigation costs in the event suppliers consider legal action,” she said. “In the event suppliers also consider demanding cash upfront for supplies, there would be serious repercussions considering that the Ministry offers essential services, which concern the lives of the people.”
Mrs Gwanyanya-Mpariwa said her committee noted with concern that the situation in Government hospitals was also pathetic and getting worse by the day.
She said when the committee invited the Health and Child Care Secretary Brigadier General Dr Gerald Gwinji (Retired), he pointed out they were no longer able to provide some of the essential services, attributing the failure to meet their mandate to paltry disbursements from Treasury.
“Despite the existence of the Health Services Fund to argument budgetary allocations for the Ministry, Rtd Brig Gen Dr Gwinji reiterated that the current funding sources were not in a position to cover basic hospital operations,” said Mrs Gwanyanya-Mpariwa.
The Committee recommended that Treasury should, during the 2018 national budget, provide funding for the outstanding ministerial debt.
It recommended setting up of a comprehensive alternative financing model for the health sector to ensure quality service delivery.
In relation to the Targeted Approach, the Committee noted that there were gross inadequacies involving essential equipment lying idle since 2013 at Ngomahuru Hospital in Masvingo and Mutare Provincial Hospital.
According to the report, Dr Gwinji informed the Committee that the equipment at Ngomahuru valued at $295 553 was diverted to Victoria Falls Hospital at the time of delivery, following an urgent need necessitated by the hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Conference in 2013.
The equipment was then damaged during the transfer to Ngomahuru Hospital, but the supplier could not repair it as he was still owed money.
The equipment has been lying idle since that time.
Parliament heard that the equipment at Mutare Provincial Hospital was initially meant for Masvingo Provincial Hospital, but was later redirected to Mutare because it was steam-driven and Masvingo had no steam-powered boilers.
On delivery, it is said the boilers at Mutare provincial hospital broke down and required a complete overhaul.
The Committee further heard that funds to the tune of $100 000 to resuscitate the two boilers were released, but no competent bidder came forth hence the equipment could not be commissioned.
Other issues observed by the Committee included flouting of tender procedures by the ministry in the procurement of vehicles.