Proposed health budget ‘unrealistic’

Friday May 5 2017

 

By By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi sbuguzi@thecitizen.co.tz

A section of health stakeholders are uncertain over the government’s ability to implement the newly proposed health budget of Sh1.1 trillion, which was tabled on Wednesday for the year 2017/18.

In the current fiscal year, the docket’s budget was pegged at Sh 845 billion.

The executive director of Sikika, a health advocacy organisation, Mr Irenei Kiria, told The Citizen yesterday that they have not found the basis to explain why the government has decided to increase the health sector budget to the “unprecedented” amount.

“In this proposed health budget, the government is still promising the same things that were not implemented in the proposals made in the current fiscal year,’’ said Mr Kiria.

“Look at the budget for medicine and medical supplies, for example; the government proposed Sh251 billon in the previous budget. But only Sh 112.1 billion has been released by end of March. But on top of that, the same government just decided to increase the health budget this time around. How realistic is this?” he queried. Mr Kiria noted that there was still a mismatch between the data that the government presents regarding the availability of medicines in the country and the reality on the ground in health facilities across the country.

“The government says by March this year, 81 per cent of medicines were available at the Medical Stores Department (MSD), but when you go to health facilities, there is a serious shortage. Talk to health providers, talk to patients, you will see the reality,’’ said Mr Kiria, whose NGO has been monitoring the supply of essential medicines in the country over the years.

Last year, Sikika advised that the MSD should decentralise its procurement system to make it work more efficiently so that health facilities in the up-country regions would receive drugs on time and as per requirements. By implementing this, it means that the funds would be allocated centrally for the purchase of drugs and other medical supplies and would be sent directly to the district councils and municipality or health facilities. The government has since taken the initiative to implement the idea but a lot is still desired in terms of drugs availability in health facilities.

A health insurance broker, and associate of Zurich Insurance, Mr Jumbe Menya, told The Citizen that it would have been reasonable if the government set a budget that would be implemented rather than promising a huge amount which it cannot release.

“It becomes difficult for me to comment on this health budget because of our government’s history in budget implementation. Only a small amount of it is released, yet the proposed amount remains huge. This doesn’t make sense,’’ he said.