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‘HE MUST EXPLAIN’ – VP Chiwenga Taken To Task In Parly

AN opposition legislator has demanded that Health minister, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga must explain why his ministry was failing to pay medical suppliers to hospitals when the health sector is facing acute shortages of medical sundries.

Harare North MP Allan Norman Markham raised this in the National Assembly last Thursday as a matter of national interest.

“We have been told that only 14% of the national budget for this year had been drawn down by the end of May. However, Finance minister (Mthuli Ncube) has categorically told us that he has paid every request expeditiously, which means that the Health ministry has only requested for money that they have duly received,” Markham said.

“That concerns me because I have been inundated will calls from medical suppliers in the health industry that are telling me that since October 2021 central hospitals have not been paid. Some of the hospitals are owed US$200 000. This is a major issue when it comes to the cash flow for the supplies, but as of this year, they are claiming that 200 of their suppliers have not received any payment yet.”

Markham said only a fifth of the $117,7 billion 2022 health budget had been disbursed to Chiwenga’s ministry, which means that the ministry was not requesting for funds from Ncube.

“It is a major issue because when a supplier supplies to a government organisation, they have to go through tender procedures, and there are clauses which they have to fulfil – one of them being that you only get paid 90 days after you have supplied. If they have supplied and have not been paid for more than 120 days, they encounter serious cash flow problems,” Markham said.

He said suppliers would be severely affected by exchange rate issues affecting the country as well as inflation if they are not paid in time.

“So the suppliers now have a major issue because they are pushing for payment, but the Ministry of Health is saying they cannot pay because they have not been given the money. My request is that Chiwenga and Ncube must bring a joint statement to this House to explain to us why suppliers are not being paid, and why we have a budget for national health that has only 14% distributed by the end of May. We have a major health crisis in the country and we need an explanation why they are not requesting for the money,” he said.

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Tsitsi Gezi responded: “Clerks at the Table will advise the Minister of Health and Child Care to come to this House with a ministerial statement regarding that issue.”

Meanwhile, Finance deputy minister Clemence Chiduwa admitted that the country’s rising inflation has affected budgets of ministries and eroded funds before utilisation.

“These are relevant and pertinent questions that are dealing with the disbursement of budgeted funds and also to ensure that whenever we provide social protection, it is not just on paper; protection must be budgeted for and released. With regards to how the funds are released, we first of all deal with a request which is coming from the responsible ministry. After the request, we do a budget release and when the budget release is done, we do a pay run and when the pay run is done then we do cash release,” Chiduwa said.

He said at the moment government was running a cash budget, and money was released only when there is cash. – Newsday

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