The Ministry of Health (MoH) had to defend itself after being criticized for overspending. Before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the ministry’s permanent secretary, Grace Muzila, struggled to explain the overuse of funds allocated by the ministry.
PAC member Mephato Reatile questioned why the ministry had spent so much money to the point of overspending, including 1.4 million pesos for general expenses and supplies, 4.1 million pesos for training and 184 million pesos for summaries and allowances.
It is indicated that the expenses are all caused by arrears of indemnities from a previous year. Reatlie also said that according to the report presented to the committee, medical costs and ARV drugs also contributed to the overspending of the ministry. But Muzila’s response was that the 184 million peso overspending was caused by a rare skills allocation that they don’t budget for. She explained that they were in talks with the Ministry of Finance that their scarce skills were up 40% and 60% per agent. “There is a need for budget because the vacancies were not enough to pay. We always overspend because there are things that weren’t budgeted. We cannot ignore the scarcity of skills because we are talking about very significant expenses.
If we don’t pay them, we will have to stop some of the vital services. When you look at previous years, you will realize that the department has overspent, the main reason being the allocation. We set a budget, but drug price changes affect our budget,” she said. Additionally, Muzila said his ministry is concerned about waste in his ministry. She explained that the past three years have been disruptive and the situation is currently being addressed. She added that when COVID-19 hit the country, the preparedness of the ministry was a bit low. Muzila said some of the critical officers needed to be taken in for COVID-19 assistance which contributed to the disruptions. However, she pointed out that they remembered many of them and got back on track.
She further explained that when they started the vaccination, there were people who wanted to get vaccinated while others were not interested. At the time, she said the ministry had no vaccines but had made payments and was still in talks with manufacturers. Muzila indicated that they were busy between the years 2020 and 2021. They then managed to buy vaccines and vaccinated people. She said they had spent a lot of time trying to fight COVID-19, adding that they had made progress. “Starting in February, we started having another challenge where we had a lot of vaccines that ended up expiring.
We did not want public funds to be wasted. We have made progress there because we were among the first four African countries to achieve the 40% immunity set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and now, for the 70% target, we are sitting at 62% of people vaccinated. Considering the population as a whole, this is commendable. We will continue the vaccinations because the vaccines are about to expire. We need to be prepared because COVID-19 is still here and we could be hit by the fifth wave,” she said.