The government has slashed budget allocations to several ministries and referral hospitals so as to raise Shs300 billion to pay for supplementary expenditure in State House and Defence.
News of budgets cuts in an already poorly funded health sector would be the latest indication yet that the NRM government is betraying its 2011-2016 manifesto promise to deliver adequate healthcare to all Ugandans.
The NRM government had, in its manifesto, committed to
spend more towards delivery of health services, including equipping all health units, scaling up supply of medicines, provision of housing, improved welfare for health workers and elimination of theft of medicines.
But three years later, Junior Finance minister Matia Kasaija told the parliamentary Budget Committee on Tuesday that the “painful” budget cuts to hospitals and other agencies were “inevitable”.
Mr Kasaija said the slash in sector spending has been forced by the “extensive” donor aid cuts estimated in excess of Shs298b this financial year, resulting from the corruption in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Disclosing how the government expects to generate Shs555.8b needed for supplementary spending, of which State House requested for Shs138.2b for the presidency, the minister said the government reluctantly suppressed the 2012/13 financial year allocations. This, he said, had realised at least Shs313.68 b.
Amidst heavy criticism from Budget Committee members, Mr Kasaija said: “Based on the fact that Uganda Revenue Authority’s cumulative performance for the last three quarters of the financial year registered significant revenue shortfalls, URA is not likely to meet the (Shs7.3 trillion) target for the FY 2012/13.”
The Daily Monitor has seen documents detailing the new budget cuts indicating that cash-strapped institutions like Mulago National Referral Hospital and district referral hospitals have been hit.
The cuts, according to Health Budget Committee Chairperson, Dr Sam Lyomoki, will further dampen efforts to fix what he called the “sick” healthcare system.
He said some hospitals are likely to go without essential drugs while others will not be able to pay for utilities. Dr Lyomoki and other members criticised the government’s decision to refund Shs45.6b stolen donor aid on behalf of people who reportedly misappropriated it in OPM. “Instead of giving National Medical Stores the Shs16b they want to equip hospitals, you’re busy assisting thieves to pay their bills. How can you cut budgets for hospitals to finance State House when people are dying in hospitals?” Dr Lyomoki asked.
Dr Lulume Bayiga (Buikwe South) said underfunding to the health sector has aggravated a situation where lack of drugs, inadequate health workers, delays in accessing health care services, and neglect of patients all contribute to preventable deaths in Uganda’s hospitals.
Amos Lugoloobi (Ntenjeru North) and Judith Franca Akello (Agago Woman) expressed concerns that department “notorious” for large spending like State House and defence don’t suffer budget cuts.
The Director Budget Patrick Ochilap said out of Shs555.8b asked for in the supplementary, Shs277.3b has already spent, meaning that Parliament will be rubber-stamping the expenditure. The committee on Tuesday criticised Finance for approving supplementary requests without carrying out due diligence.
AFFECTED HOSPITALS, MINISTRIES AND AGENCIES
Mulago lost Shs5.3b, Butabika Mental Hospital Shs848.3m, Affected referral hospitals include Moroto Shs321.5m, Jinja Shs210.2m, Arua Shs202.3m, Masaka Shs85.3m, Lira Shs62m, Soroti Shs94.2m and Kabale Shs34.4m. Others are Uganda Aids Commission Shs361.1m, Ministry of Health Shs871.6m, Health Service Commission Shs149.2m. Judiciary Shs1.4b, local governments Shs90.8b, Makerere University Shs4.6b, KCCA Shs14b, Agriculture ministry Shs11.7b, Road Fund Shs66.4b, Water and Environment Shs40b, Naads Secretariat 8.3b, Uganda Human Rights Commission Shs240.9m, among others.