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District health office’ secrecy hampers budget tracking project

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Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) has said lack of commitment by most district health offices (DHOs) in releasing information is one of the factors frustrating efforts in the network’s budget tracking.

One of the network’s areas of interest is to monitor how money allocated to the DHOs is being used.

However, Acting Programme Manager for the network, Davis Mwachumu, said their efforts are frustrated by some health officers in some districts who deny providing such information upon request.

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“Whenever we want to conduct our budget tracking activities, we are supposed to access some documents from the government like district health offices. In some instances, it is difficult for us to get hold of the documents because the officers who are custodians of information say they are not allowed to share those documents anyhow,” he said.

Mwachumu said the development affects the objective of budget tracking exercise, which otherwise would have been helping in making informed decisions in the delivery of health services

He supported the call for the enactment of Access to Information (ATI) Bill, saying it will help the network to easily solicit information from such offices.

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Ministry of Health Spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, said district health offices are allowed to provide any information provided it is not very sensitive.

Chikumbe, while disclosing that they have hardly received any report on the matter, said they do not expect DHOs to be hiding any information to do with their budget.

“If it is something very confidential, they always refer to me for appropriate advice. But if it is about budget, that is a straightforward issue. They can give how much they got and how it has been used. To me I do not see why they should not be able to release such information,” he said

Parliament is expected to discuss the ATI Bill which aims at addressing challenges that people face in accessing information from both the public and private sector.

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