Graft, inflated prices milk health ministry dry

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John Muyamba

Rundu – The health ministry continues to be dogged by corruption and inflation of tender prices, to the extent that much of the billions of dollars allocated to the ministry make little impact on service delivery, said health minister Bernard Haufiku.

The corruption is particularly with the buying of anti-retroviral (ARVs) medication and consumable supplies, which, in most cases, are inflated by at least three times, Haufiku told New Era in an exclusive interview in Rundu over the weekend.

The health minister was in Rundu where he was busy operating on patients on an outreach programme.
He was adamant that corrupt practices within the ministry have been affecting the ministry’s effectiveness.

“That I think shouldn’t be happening, for instance, the way we have been buying ARVs has been inflated unbelievably up to three times. Also consumable supplies were also super-inflated and these are things that have been happening at the head office. It’s not in the periphery or regions and that further reduced the actual budget that needs to permeate to the periphery to the ordinary Namibian citizen for medical services,” Haufiku noted.

“If you look at the N$6.5 billion allocated to us this year and you go back let’s say 4 years, there hasn’t been that much difference. As a matter of fact, if you go back around 5 years by now we should be around N$9 billion if we were really serious in bringing the public health sector on par with what is required globally but it has not happened and that’s the first aspect,” he said.

“Regarding the budget, I think allocation and utilisation was also not efficient. So, I now wish that two things happen, maybe the first one is what we now want to introduce internally in the ministry to make our processes more efficient, less corrupt prone and making everyone responsible for every cent allocated to him or her,” he continued.

“The second thing is that I think the central government or treasury need to reconsider its allocation to health. I don’t want to go into detail on that in the media. I’d rather engage my colleagues in the office of the Prime Minister so that we look at what can be done to increase the budget of the ministry of health.”

Haufiku told New Era that the current central procurement board seems to be a little bit difficult compared to the tender board, although its intention was to seal all the gaps in terms of combating corruption, but it makes certain processes difficult.

“For instance, I was informed that a person here in Rundu who is running the state hospital cannot buy a padlock that costs a N$100 without the approval by the acting permanent secretary. That’s ridiculous. It means even a face cloth or a bulb that needs to be replaced must be approved in Windhoek and how many of those are we not having? So, that is apparently in terms of the current laws of the Procurement Board, which I think must be reviewed as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Haufiku’s view is that central government needs to decentralise some of these things. “We need to give the responsibility to the people running the hospitals in the regions. We give them a budget and I need to hear what every cent is spent on. It must be accounted for, that’s it. Why can’t we give them that responsibility if we give them the responsibility to run the hospitals?” he queried.

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