Health and Child Care portfolio committee chairperson Ruth Labode has said it is not proper that a country with 25% of world diamond deposits could rely on donors to fund its health budget.
Speaking during the 2015 National Budget debate in the National Assembly yesterday, Labode added that the 2015 budget allocation to health was not only below the 15% threshold set by the Abuja Declaration, but also a reduction of the funding to the ministry as it now ranked fifth in terms of allocation.
She said the ministry usually received the second or third largest chunk of the budget.
“Development agencies have contributed $305 million towards preventive services and it can likely rise to $600 million, but this does not mean our government should rely on donors, especially that we have 25% of the world diamonds,” Labode lamented.
In the same debate, Parliament’s Budget and Finance committee chairperson David Chapfika told Treasury to conduct an audit of all civil servants and pensioners currently drawing funds from the fiscus as a means to reduce the government’s wage bill.
Chapfika’s comments during the debate in the National
Assembly come in the light of Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s revelation that 82% of the budget would go towards funding the civil servants’ salaries and wages.
“We recommend that the government conducts a detailed audit of its staff complement and an audit of pensioners that should be done at least by March 31 2015 and see their eligibility to continue drawing funds from Treasury,” Chapfika said.
This would be the second staff and human resources audit by the government after the 2010 Ernst and Young (India) report that revealed that there were 75 000 civil servants who were improperly employed.
Most of those cited by the report were people employed soon after the disputed and bloody 2008 presidential election.
Chapfika also said the government should consider engaging the developmental agencies and donor community to help fund the budget considering that national revenues have been declining.
“The minister should call an immediate conference with cooperating partners so that their funds could be incorporated into the National Budget,” he added.
Meanwhile, Local Government portfolio committee chairperson Irene Zindi told Parliament that Treasury should also consider reducing liquor licensing fees to encourage compliance.
“Only 20% of liquor outlets are licensed because of the high fees levied,” Zindi said.
“However, if the fees are reduced, that could increase compliance and generate a potential $10 million annually.”
The debate on the budget is set to continue tomorrow in the National Assembly.
Indications from senior Parliament officials are that the budget should be passed by tomorrow so that it is transmitted to Senate.
Chinamasa wants to steer the budget through before Parliament breaks for the Christmas recess tomorrow or on Friday at the latest.