By James Muonwa
PUBLIC hospitals are reportedly failing to timeously pay for goods and services, in the process shortchanging suppliers as the money would have been eroded by inflation when eventually paid.
Treasury, which to date has drawn down less than a fifth of the 2022 national budget, is being blamed for dispatching money late to the relevant health ministry, although the same ministry is allegedly complicit for not making requests for the cash.
Parliament is now demanding a ministerial statement from Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as health minister, regarding the late off-setting of debts, now at a staggering US$200 000 for one supplier alone.
The decision to summon Chiwenga to explain followed concerns in Parliament last week by Harare North lawmaker, Allan Norman Markham, who wanted an explanation why payments were coming late.
Said Markham: “Madam Speaker, my point of national interest is on the health service.
“We have been told that only 14% of the National Budget for this year has been drawn down by the end of May. However, the Minister of Finance has told us categorically that he has paid every request expeditiously, which means the Ministry of Health has only requested for money that they have duly received.
“Now, that concerns me because I have been inundated since we had that discussion in this Parliament, by suppliers of medical supplies to the health industry. They are telling me that central hospitals, since October 21 (2021), have not been paid. In Chitungwiza and the Central Hospitals here in Harare, some suppliers are owed US$200 000.”
The whole of this year, suppliers have not been paid, he claimed.
“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.
“Currently, money has been disbursed and the amount of money that is being disbursed is one fifth of what is in the budget and that is for the suppliers.
“It is a major issue because when a supplier supplies to a government organisation, they have to go through the tender procedures and there are clauses which they have to fulfill,” said the opposition legislator.
“One of them being that you only get paid 90 days after you have supplied, whereas if they have supplied and have not been paid for more than 120 days, they encounter serious cash flow problems.”
The continued below optimum levels of medicinal and sundries supplies in public hospitals has sparked a major health problem, the Harare North MP said.
“The issue being we have a major health crisis on the ground. It is my request that both ministries come forward and give us, either a joint statement or the Minister of Health, in particular, tell us why they are not requesting for the money,” Markham recently told Parliament.