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NASS to increase health budget by N49bn



ABUJA –  The National Assembly seems to be unyielding in its decision to ensure Federal Government begin the implementation of National Health Act signed into law in 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Hon. Chike Okafor, Monday, said the legislature proposed to add about N49 billion accruable from Consolidated Revenue Fund stipulated by the Act into this year Federal Government’s budget for health.

He gave the assurance in Abuja at an Expanded Meeting of Nigeria Primary Health Care Revitalization Support Group.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr Olanrewaju Tejuoso had hinted on similar action at different fora in November and December last year.

Similarly, Okafor said the 8th National Assembly is expanding its oversight function on the activities of principal recipients and sub-recipients of the Global Fund grants and other donor-support grants, subventions or credit facilities for the health sector to ensure accountability and transparency of all resources coming from within and outside the country into the sector.

He explained that there is a huge drop in percentage of health appropriation this year, compared to the previous years. He argued that further drop in the proposed budget had been precipitated by refund and counterpart funding for donor programmes which the country needs to make.

According to him, N6.4 billion out of N51 billion allocated for capital project in the health budget is for refund of donor fund misappropriated by agencies of government and payment of counterpart funds which the country failed to pay in the previous year.

He decried that the refunded funds would be more than twice the amount of money voted for revitalization of primary health centres in the current budget.

He said apart from failure of the 2017 budget proposal to reflect the one percent CRF, there are gaps in immunization programme, family planning, HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases, nutrition, NHIS, maternal/child health programmes and few others.

In order to ensure there is harmony in the intention of both chambers of the National Assembly, Okafor said all health-related committees in the federal legislature had been working together with relevant committees such as Committee on Appropriation to effect the operationalization of the Health Act.

He emphasized that funding is a major problem bedeviling the sector. “If they don’t have adequate budgetary provision to take care of health services, especially, we are emphasizing on primary health care. That is where emphasis is on. And, the reason is very simple. There is pressure on the tertiary facilities because 75 percent of illnesses are treatable at the PHC level. But because the PHCs are not functioning, you see the patients running to Federal Medical Centres and Teaching Hospitals. If we can revitalize the PHCs, the pressure that the tertiary facilities are facing now will be reduced by over 60 percent provided in the budget. If we have the funds there, then, we can begin to talk about releases. We can talk about oversight.

“From the fiscal year, we are going to take oversight seriously. Oversight also includes timely releases of funds. The old practice where towards the end of the year, you see Ministry of Finance and the relevant agencies rushing to release funds to the MDAs should come to an end. As soon as the budget is passed within the first quarter of the year, we expect that the Ministry of Finance and the relevant agencies should break up the budgetary provisions into quarters to ensure that funds are released and ensure that MDAs can begin to embark on programmes and policies as earmarked in the budget,” he said.

He assured that primary health centres would be the focus of government in health financing.

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