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Activists fault off-budget funding to health sector

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Health activists have asked government to consider finding a new system to make off-budget funding allocation work to ensure that there is an improvement in the health system delivery.

The activists were reacting to the 2015/2016 national budget which Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe presented in Parliament last Friday.

The minister announced a K77.4 billion allocation to the Health Ministry and an addition of K55.6 billion off the budget donor resources support.

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Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) Executive Director Martha Kwataine said it is high time government took a bold decision to give donors conditions as well.

“This has proved not to work to some extent. They should also appreciate that we are a sovereign state and they shouldn’t always impose things on us. The idea of off- budget donor support has a lot of challenges, including the fact that government has no control over how services are delivered or prioritised,” she noted.

Kwataine added that there is no change in this year’s health budget allocation as compared to last year since it is still at 8.7 per cent.

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“The budget is too heavy for overheard costs going towards wages and salaries with almost nothing for service delivery.

“We will be paying public servants to sit in their offices with no service delivery. It’s a miserable time for Malawians,” she said.

Executive Director for Health and Rights Education Programme, Maziko Matemba, said unless government in collaboration with donors have come up with a new working technique, there has been a lot of disorganisation in off-budget service delivery.

“From what I have known through experience, it has been difficult for government to follow up the activities implemented by donors.

“I don’t know if its is the problem of government or donors but this kind of funding doesn’t benefit people in the rural areas that’s why you can see that our health system is still poor,” he observed.

Matemba said K55.6 billion is a lot of money which if put to good use things would change in the health sector saying, “Otherwise if it’s going to be business as usual with no new measures, next year we will be talking about the same things.”

He urged government to be transparent with donor conditions by making them public so that ordinary Malawians should help in decision-making on whether to accept them or not.

In his statement, Gondwe pointed out that the upward trend in off-budget support as major source of financing has several challenges including that government (including parliament) does not have decision making responsibility over an increasing amount of resources available to the public.

“Therefore, government cannot properly decide on expenditure priorities, nor properly plan and time the delivery of goods and services in some critical areas. For instance, delivery of drugs to health facilities,” he said.

This means that Ministry of Health’s total 2015/2016 budget will be at K123 billion.

Other ministries who have off-budget funding are Ministry of Gender, which has a total budgetary allocation of K3.2 billion and will receive off-budget support amounting to K14.4 billion and Malawi Police Service which is in the process of receiving motor vehicles worth US$5 Million (K2.3billion) from the Chinese government.

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