Mthuli suggests drugs bought by govt disappearing to private hospitals; reveals donors providing Z$230 billion for health sector

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By Staff Reporter

ZIMBABWE’S health sector budget for 2023 will total Z$702 billion, with international development partners providing some Z$232 billion, finance and economic development minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has said.

Speaking during Parliamentary debate on sectorial allocations in the 2023 national budget, the minister also appeared to suggest that drugs bought by government for public hospitals were being looted and sold to the private sector.

Said the minister; “We have found that some of the drugs that we buy for public hospitals disappear very quickly and how come these private hospitals always have medicine, what is going on?”

He also said while government hospitals were struggling, there was a lot of investment in private health facilities in the country.

“ … there is something else, I do not know whether you have noticed that we have got private hospitals mushrooming everywhere, every other corner of Harare, there is some private hospital coming up – I am dramatising.

“It is quite clear that this is a growth sector. If you go to those private hospitals, you will find that there is adequate medicine and there is equipment and quality personnel.”

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube

Responding to appeals from MPs to increase the health ministry budget, Prof Ncube said the challenge in the sector as not about adequate funding.

“Basically, the Health sector budget is actually split into two; the first part is what we appropriate from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and this amounts to about ZWL470 billion; that is what we are debating,” he said.

“Then we have an additional ZWL232 billion from development partners. They support Health directly and they are very clear about that; they run various programmes. The total that is going to the Health sector is ZWL702 billion.”

The minister said the health ministry was not drawing down on its allocated budget, and suggested there was a preference for donor funding which comes in hard currency.

“If we look at the draw-down in terms of budget utilisation for the Health sector, up to now it is 65%,” said Prof Ncube.

“Also, there is the donor funding that is also being drawn-down in parallel as well.

The issue about this sector is not so much that of using adequate funding, but it is about the speed of disbursement and it is a push and pull issue.

“If we look at other ministries such as Transport, they have actually run out of budget; Agriculture has also run out of budget. They are high expenders and they real push for their budget release.”

He added; “We feel that perhaps we could improve the absorptive rate so that they can get their funding faster.

“At the same time, you have competition between donor funding and also domestic funding where you are quite aware that in some sub-sectors, officials prefer to work with donor funding because they are getting hard US dollars for that.

“The way we see it, we feel that the sector in terms of resources that have been allocated, there is adequate resources but the issue is draw-down, competition between donors and Government funding.”