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National Assembly refuses to include statutory health funds in 2017 budget over fraud fright

Anietie Udobit,Monica Omachi

 

The Nigerian National Assembly has refused to set aside one percent of combined revenue for the health sector as statutorily required, until it is sure of sensible and transparent payout of the fund.

The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, revealed this on Thursday while explaining why the fund was not included in the 2017 budget.

The National Health Act, which was signed into law in 2014, demands that one per cent of the consolidated federal revenue be set aside for the health sector with effect from 2017.

But the fund, which this year would have been about N40 billion, was not included in the 2017 budget.

Mr. Shuaibu said the lawmakers want to ensure that the fund will be used judiciously before they start appropriating it.

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Speaking at the inaugural quarterly media interactive forum of NPHCDA in Abuja, he said the Ministry of Health was working very hard to institute transparency in the running of its affairs.

He also assured that going by the steps already taken under this administration; the fund would be made available in the 2018 budget.

“The health law took a long time, passed through several stages before people like you helped to make it a reality and I think one of the keystones of the health law is around how one percent of the consolidated revenue fund will be dedicated to primary health care and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

Adding that “Primary health care centres are not working very well, so what we are doing in collaboration with NHIS and the Federal Ministry of Health and the NPHCDA is to prioritize and see how these funds can be transferred from the national level to the health facilities.

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“We are working with the Bill and Melinda Gates and the World Bank to see how this can be done in a very efficient manner,” he said.

Mr. Shuaibu, grieved on  the state of immunization in the country, said that, the  agency was setting up emergency centres for routine immunization as part of the efforts to address the break, “We are setting up a national emergency centre to focus on routine immunization,” he added.

He also revealed that the agency was still awaiting the audit report from KPMG.

He acknowledged that the agency had challenges in recent past around accountability and on how to do a better job.

This, he said, necessitated the hiring of the auditing firm to look at the books of the agency as part of the efforts to restore donors’ confidence, as the country seeks for alternatives to fund immunization.

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“The firm is expected to turn in its report in the next few months,” Mr. Shuaib said.

Meanwhile, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has called on the NHIS to extend its coverage to poor and unemployed Nigerians.

Mr. Dogara spoke on Wednesday while declaring open an analytical hearing by the House into alleged misuse of NHIS contributions and inhuman treatment of enrollers in the scheme.

The Speaker also grieved that a huge number of Nigerians who cannot afford the cost of treatment even in public health facilities are left to their own devices.

“Regrettably, there is no mechanism to protect vulnerable families from the catastrophic effects of the excessive cost of healthcare services in Nigeria.

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