What you need to know:
- The reason why the oversight committees are in place is to scrutinise the budget proposals and expenditures. The prerogative is with Parliament and MPs are aware of what is in the kitty and the competing priorities.”
Kampala. Health centres countrywide are likely to face a shortage of essential medicines after the Ministry of Finance slashed the budget for National Medical Stores’ (NMS) for essential medicines by Shs100b.
The Ministry of Health has, however, warned that the Shs100b budget shortfall will cripple health service delivery in the country.
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health, in a telephone interview with Daily Monitor yesterday, said: “The implication is that we shall not be able to provide the needed services if the funds are not provided. Government needs to look for money to ensure that these items (essential medicines) are catered for. That is why they are called priorities.”
“My duty is to inform Parliament, the budget committee and other government departments that more funds should be allocated to cater for these priorities,” Dr Aceng added.
The Ministry of Health, in its budget estimates for the Financial Year 2019/2020, requested that Ministry of Finance provides Shs496b to NMS to cater for special medicines, but only Shs396b has been availed, creating a shortfall of Shs100b.
Some health units have previously experienced rampant drug stock outs, a situation that has compromised the health of Ugandans.
The Shs100b shortfall is part of the Shs231b key unfunded priorities, which the ministry insists government must be availed to effectively run the health sector for the next financial year.
The ministry had requested for an additional Shs100b on top of the Shs396.2b that was provided in the 2019/20 budget.
The ministry says this unfunded priority will affect the provision of essential medicines to the hospitals and health centres.
Overall, the Ministry of Health budget for the Financial Year 2019/2020 stands at about Shs1.2 trillion, up from Shs1.13 trillion for 2018/19 financial year.
Among the other unfunded priorities is Shs43.5b outstanding arrears that haven’t been cleared for the last three years. This is money that was meant to clear suppliers who have since threatened to sue the Ministry of Health, according to ministry officials.
Dr Aceng said she was hopeful that the Finance ministry would source for some additional funds during the financial year to cater for the deficit.
“Along the financial year when revenue collection improves, the Finance ministry normally releases some additional funds to address some of these gaps, so I am hopeful that they will provide the funds to bridge the gaps,” she said.
Officials from the NMS that has been hit hard by the cuts were not available to offer explanation on how they will handle the situation if the required funds are not given.
The NMS spokesperson, Mr Dan Kimosho, could not be reached for a comment by press time. The chief executive officer, Mr Moses Kamabare, was reportedly out of office.
The Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Mr Jim Mugunga, said: “The budget prioritizes essentials like medicines and health sector will certainly be given priority… however, it’s not uncommon for sectors to lobby parliament to gain more than what was allocated through a consultative process.
The reason why the oversight committees are in place is to scrutinise the budget proposals and expenditures. The prerogative is with Parliament and MPs are aware of what is in the kitty and the competing priorities.”