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Malawi government, donors move in to curb abuse in health

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Malawi’s donors in the health sector have put in place measures to ensure efficient use of the money they give to the sector.

The donors, operating under the Health Service Joint Fund (HSJF), have established a Fiscal Agent office intended to check how their money is used in the promotion of healthcare in Malawi.

The agent would also support improvements in overall government Public Financial Management in the health sector.

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This development comes at a time Malawi’s major donors are reluctant to support the national budget in the aftermath of the 2013 massive looting of resources from the public coffers.

Malawi News understands that the Fiscal Agent has been contracted by the development partners themselves.

It is tasked with controlling disbursements of their funds in accordance with the rules established for the HSJF.

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This follows a December 2, 2015 agreement between Malawi Government and the development partners comprising Norway, the United Kingdom, Flanders and Germany.

The agreement came about as donors’ rescue measure for Malawi’s health sector which has been struggling financially.

In total, the donors committed K12.1 billion in the first year of operations (2016).

The Fiscal Agent office has been operational since December 2015. It verifies and co-signs payments for HSJF expenditures at Ministry of Health (MoH) headquarters and the National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC).

It has the mandate to make sure that payments are incompliance with agreed and approved procedures.

All procurements have to be reviewed and co-approved by the Procurement Oversight Agent which already exists within the MoH.

Head of Development Cooperation at the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Bjarne Garden, said the establishment of a Fiscal Agent entails additional oversight and control measures.

He said the Fiscal Agent is designed to provide critical support to key government and church health sector activities.

“The Fiscal Agent …is currently contracted by Norway until 1 December 2016, with plans underway to start a recruitment process for a more long-term Fiscal

Agent to be financed by another donor partner,” Garden said.

HSJF was designed as a means to reduce fragmentation of donor support; through an efficient and secure channel, approved, government prioritised budget lines and activities; and strengthen government fiduciary and related systems.

According to Garden, so far, this system only applies to Ministry of Health. However, the Ministry of Education was considering a similar joint donor funding arrangement, and other ministries have also shown interest.

The joint funding would help in paying for water and electricity for health facilities, medical equipment, infrastructure for health centres, staff housing and funding for service level agreements with the Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham).

Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Nations Msowoya, confirmed the establishment of the office.

Blantyre District Health Officer, Medson Matchaya, said even though the payments will not meet arrears of the previous months, the initiative would help to diffuse pressure on Other Recurrent Transactions (ORT) budget.

“We can’t spend this money on any other thing such as locum, but only on areas specified in the agreement,” he said.

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