Health ministry budget fiasco

MASERU — During the 2007/08 financial year the Ministry of Health had to return nearly 20 percent of its budget allocation to the treasury department because the funds had not been utilised, a report by the Auditor-General Lucy Liphafa has revealed.

The report issued last week said M93.8 million of the M525 326 574 allocated to the ministry in the 2007/8 financial year remained unutilised until it had to be returned to the treasury.

Ironically, this happened when Lesotho’s health sector continued to face severe problems due to lack of resources.

Medication at major hospitals was and is still in short supply while doctors and nurses continued to shun Lesotho due to poor working conditions and uncompetitive salaries.

Villagers were and still continue to walk long distances to access health services.

Ambulances and other basic medical equipment was in short supply at the country’s major hospitals and clinics.

At Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Lesotho’s only referral hospital, some patients were sleeping on the floor because there were no enough beds.

New mothers in the paediatric ward had to sleep on the floor due to lack of beds. 

The geyser at the hospital remained unrepaired. 

Basic equipment like a CT Scan, a machine used to diagnose people with head injuries, remained broken.

Patients had to be referred to Bloemfontein because the hospital had not bought one.

The machine was only delivered in 2009.

Doctors and nurses worked painfully long hours because the ministry could not employ more.

But despite these problems the ministry could still afford not to utilise M93.8 million, money that could have been used to recruit more personnel, buy more beds and repair dilapidated hospitals and clinics around the country.

More drugs and equipment could have been bought.

While the Ministry of Health is not the first one to return money to the treasury due to underutilisation, the daunting challenges facing Lesotho’s health sector make the ministry’s frugality quite startling. 

Ministries and government are encouraged to save money but not at the expense of service delivery.

Lesotho’s blood bank has been at critical levels for years because there is just not enough effort to recruit more donors.

Although with the help of rich countries and aid agencies Lesotho tops the list of countries that are doing well to provide medication to people with HIV and Aids, many people still don’t have access to life-saving drugs.

The number of orphans continues to increase as more parents succumb to Aids.

Lesotho now has more than 200 000 orphans, according to aid agencies.

The auditor general’s report said M9.1 million of the M125 million allocated to the ministry for administrative purposes in the 2007/08 was not utilised.

Funds allocated to districts’ health needs were about M145 million but only M115.5 million was spent.

There are only three districts that used all the funds released to them or spent more.

Queen Elizabeth II Hospital was given M115 million but managed to use only about M105 million, leaving a staggering M10.4 million to be returned to the treasury.

This happened at a time when the health care quality at the hospital was deteriorating due to lack of personnel, drugs and basic equipment.

The Lesotho Flying Doctors Service, a crucial project that flies doctors to remote areas where there are no clinics, only used M3 million of the allocated M8.6 million.

The Social Welfare Department, whose role is helping people too poor to pay their medical bills, did not use M3.3 million of the allocated M7.9 million.

The department takes care of the disabled, aged, orphaned and other vulnerable people.

The department also provides wheelchairs to the disabled, white canes to the blind and other essentials to help people with disabilities.

Seabata Lengosane, the spokesperson for the Lesotho National Association of Physically Disabled Persons, said he was shocked that the social welfare department had returned funds to the government at a time when many people with disabilities were struggling to get basic equipment.

“I fail to understand why the department did not approach our association and plan together with us on how we could utilise the funds,” Lengosane said.

“We have many people who do not have crutches, wheelchairs and calipers but the department had the guts to return M3 million,” he said.

A wheelchair costs more than M3 000, Lengosane said.

The audit report said departments for mental health, HIV prevention and treatment, infectious diseases, labs and research also failed to utilise allocated funds.

So did the Blood Transfusion Services and National Health Training Centre.

The labs and researches department was allocated M18.7 million but spent only M7.5 million.

Out of the M39.8 million released to the department dealing with HIV, M10.5 million was returned to the government purse unused.

The president of the Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and Aids (Lenephwa), Mohau Mabote, said the return of such a huge amount of money to the government’s purse reflected lack of vision on the part of the health ministry.

“It could have been channelled to food production for vulnerable children whose parents have died of Aids-related illnesses or those whose parents are still alive but are so ill that they can’t work,” Mabote said.

 “There should be food production projects for such people,” he said.

Mabote said in Maseru district alone, there are about 30 000 vulnerable children whose HIV-infected parents are unable to pay school fees.

Health Minister Mphu Ramatlapeng said she was not in a position to talk about the specific figures mentioned in the report because she was not in her office and did not have relevant papers with her.

She however said sometimes failure to spend all allocated funds is often caused by delays in signing certain agreements in certain projects.

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8 thoughts on “Health ministry budget fiasco

  1. supporter of Lesotho January 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Lesotho is out of water.
    WASA, nor the government does seem to care.
    Access to water is a human right.

    No one is writing an article about that.
    The Country is unable to provide its people with water and education.
    These two things are the essence for every society to function.
    Where does the government put its priorities?

  2. Is it because Dr Ramatlapeng places a little value on the lives of this Nation or what?

    Everywhere you go in this country, in all the haelth care facilities, you find the suffering masses of Basotho People waiting to be given the very life safing service, health service! And many loose their lives waiting to recievev that service! There is no doubt that everyone in this Country is a victim to this calamity directly or indirectly! And yet Ramatlapemg’s ministry has got the audacity to return 20% of it’s allocated budget!!

    If nothing is done about this then we will only confirm what we know already, that this government has failed this Nation in terms of service delivery!!!

  3. Ake le tlohelleng Mosali enoa hle banna, Lehohla u ne are ke sethoto sealemoeng pono hake hopole le mojoetsa mantsoe a thata ana. Haele Moetapele ena taba tsa hae tsa mahlapa a tala ha ke hopole le mo seolla mona. Oa tseba ke bona hole betere ha 20% e khutletse mokotleng oa sechaba hona le ha e nyametse. Think about it.

  4. Faljapi, do you really think that it is better that these allocated public funds have been turned back into the government coffers?

    If so, then consider the many People who have been denied service in the health service centres resulting from such glaring inefficiencies!

    If so, think about those that have lost their lives and the lives of their loved ones because of absence of adequate service provision resulting from this outspoken inefficiency!

    No, you really can’t be serious!!!

  5. Ministry of Health is a joke. The previous cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister failed to nail the real inept:

    1. The closure of the former Lesotho Dispensary Association (LDA) that used to produce quality drugs which was later sold to the Chinese nationals is still a shock to the country and SADC region.
    2. This very same ministry promised the nation “mobile clinics” and nothing ever took off. The ministry had hoped to “decentralize” health services to communities through local district councils or local government, it has also failed. This ministry is fond of playing tricks with our emotions; the recent “Mother Baby Pack is a take – home package of anti – retroviral drugs that are given to HIV-pregnant mothers” are just empty promises.
    3. Nurses’ strikes because of poor working conditions (inadequate health facilities and poor salaries) and general dilapidated service delivery where there is no simple paracetamol from Queen II it’s shameful.
    4. It was the “Know Your Status” and HIV testing and counseling (HTC) policy that dismally underperformed or failed to reach the beneficiaries. HIV and Aids initiatives in the country are haphazardly coordinated, Lesotho Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS (LENEPWA) is stilling struggling to operate due to lack of funding from both development partners and the government as well and consequently we see the ministry shooting itself in the foot by inefficiently utilizing the allotted funds.

    All these shortfalls and other related “cosmetic solutions” prove that the ministry is a complete disaster and has lost direction. Absorptive capacity and management skills are highly questionable across the board.

  6. Ke nako ea hore re hlahlobeng maemo a rona a tsamaiso ea lichelete tsa naha. Ntho ena ea chelete e khutlang e bakoa ke hore dignitories just approve amounts without present budgets. Joale chelete ha ese e le teng ebe bothata hore na re qala kae. Mohloli oa bobolu bona ke ho ts’epa li-medical aid tse re isang RSA.Re tla boulela maphelo a Basotho haeba ho ka etsoa molao o re thibelang bohle ho alafuoa kantle ho naha(ho tloha ka motlotlehi ho isa ho mofutsana-oa-ntja-leqephe). ‘Muso ha o tsotelle hoba boholo bo alafuoa kantle. Oee Basotho ke nako ea ho ikaha re supe hore rea ipusa. Ho lekane moo re bapetseng ka Basotho.SEKOELE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Hello, my company and i are the sole agents of a new medical device from Russia. It has been tested and approved. we will want to write to most of the health sectors in Africa so that they can we can introduce some of these devices to them.

    The problem right now is how to get the mailing and the postal addresses of these company. I will very much appreciate it if you could help me with some of the mailing addresses to these companies. Thank you

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