9 January 2018

Zimbabwe: Budget Adoption Uncertain As Parliament Blasts Health Allocation

Adoption of the 2018 national budget could hit a brick wall amid indications that parliament wants more money for its operations and to the health ministry allocation increased.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated parliament $57 million while the health ministry got $400 million; they had respectively bid for $100 million and $1,1 billion.

Speaker of parliament Jacob Mudenda said Monday that Chinamasa's allocations to the two departments were woefully inadequate.

"It is not a desk exercise. It is a mammoth task that requires adequate funding which must be timeously released to parliament. You as parliamentarians must demand that," he told legislators at a post-budget seminar.

"You have the constitutional leverage in making the demands. I am appealing to you to exercise it in this last lap of our eighth parliament."

Mudenda said failure to comprehensively fund parliament amounts to a violation of the cardinal principle on separation of powers as enunciated in the section three subsection (2e) of the constitution.

"In this regard, therefore, the umbilical cord on the effectiveness of parliament as a sovereign constitutional body is inherently tied to its financial independence."

He added, "Thus this demands a review of the budget allocated to parliament by treasury as a matter of cause and urgency. It is you members of parliament who must exercise that demand and debate the budgetary allocation in the bluebook."

Finance committee chairperson David Chapfika concurred saying, "It means we have to have oversight over the same executive and the best way of disabling that is to underfund it.

"We represent the people and the voice of the people is the voice of God to quote the President."

On the health budget, Mudenda said the ministry should have the highest allocation, or at least the 15 percent benchmark set by the African Union in its 2001 Abuja Declaration.

"The 2018 budget allocation to health is only 7, 7 percent of the total budget, slightly up from 6, 9 percent in 2017. This situation is unacceptable and untenable in our challenging health delivery service," he said.

After narrating the experience of his two relatives who required surgery services at United Bulawayo Hospital but failed to get them in time because there were no swabs and morphine, Mudenda said the state of health facilities in Zimbabwe was deplorable.

"On two occasions, I had to send money to get the necessary medication. Something wrong somewhere."

Section 76 of the constitution provides for the right to basic health care, basic services for chronic illnesses and emergency medical treatment.

"Unfortunately, I have heard some instances where some doctors have refused to attend to emergencies until that $5 000 is paid.

"It's happening, contrary to the constitution and more importantly, contrary to the Hippocratic Oath to which all doctors swear. In an emergency, you cannot put money ahead of saving life. Parliamentarians stand your ground on this one."

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