Frequent strikes by medical personnel in Vihiga County are hurting local revenue generation efforts, a report on the financial status and spending by the devolved unit has revealed.
The report by the Controller of Budget (CoB) dated May 2021 says the frequent strikes witnessed in the crucial sector in the recent past have significantly affected the amount of revenue collected from public health facilities.
The devolved unit targets to collect up to Sh100 million from the county referral hospital and the three sub-county hospitals in Sabatia, Hamisi and Emuhaya but the target is not achieved.
This, according to the CoB report, leaves the county struggling to achieve its total annual target of Sh192 million.
During the first nine months of the current financial year, 2020/21, the county generated a total of Sh98.2 million from several streams, the health sector included, dashing hopes of hitting the annual target by the end of this month.
CoB says the Sh98.2 million represents a decrease of 23.3 per cent compared to Sh128 million realised during a similar period in 2019/20.
For instance, the county witnessed a long strike from December last year that lasted for over four months, leaving the facilities shut for lack of services.
"This (strikes by health workers) has considerably compromised the county's potential to meet the set revenue target at the medical facilities, especially at the Vihiga County Referral hospital," the report reads.
With the latest revelation, the failure by the four main health facilities to hit their target could rent the plan to convert them into semi-autonomous institutions.
In May last year, Governor Ottichilo signed into law two bills to enable the county referral hospital and sub-county hospitals in Sabatia, Hamisi and Emuhaya directly spend their collections.
This brought into force the Vihiga County Health Facilities Improvement Act, 2020 and Vihiga County Health Services Act, 2020.
The laws empowered the four health facilities to used their own revenue to fund improvement of their infrastructure, procure drugs and other essential equipment as well as address their staffing challenges.
Collections from the main hospitals makes a large chunk of the total revenue generated locally but the same has always been channelled to other uses leaving the health facilities struggling financially.
Effects of Covid
CoB also blamed the decrease on the effects of Covid-19 pandemic to the economy.
"The revenue collection process was adversely affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The performance of markets and business premises was greatly affected, causing a drop in amounts collected as revenue," the report reads.
It goes on: "Most premises have had it difficult complying with revenue collection, with a number of them closing business altogether."
"The stringent Covid-19 containment measures rendered collection of revenue in some revenue streams such as liquor licensing impossible," adds the report.
CoB also says Vihiga County has a shortage of staff in the revenue collection department after 58 of its members left the Directorate of Revenue.
The 58 have not been replaced leaving a staffing gap of 60 people in the directorate.
This, she says, poses a significant challenge in ensuring effective revenue mobilisation.