Health Ministry needs special rules on recruitment, Malama tells PAC

Ministry of Health spokesperson Kennedy Malama speaks to journalist at his office in Lusaka Picture by Tenson Mkhala

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for Administration Dr Kennedy Malama has appealed to Cabinet Office to give special treatment to his ministry when it comes to Treasury authority for net recruitmen.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has noted that 68 per cent of audit queries cited against the Ministry of Health are to do with procurement issues while 30 per cent of them are to do with Human Resource and administration.

This came to light Monday when Dr Malama and his team appeared before the said committee to respond to audit queries cited in the Auditor General’s report for the financial year ended December 31, 2018.

Dr Malama’s appeal came following a question from Chavuma UPND member of parliament Victor Lumayi who wondered why the ministry had transferred some officials without getting authority from PSMD.

“In your submissions here, you have transferred these 634 officers but you have only gotten authority to normalise these transfers from the PSMD after you have done the transfers. Why don’t you first seek for authority before you do these transfers to avoid these confusions?” Lumayi asked.

In response, Dr Malama said his ministry was a special one because it involved saving lives.

“Chair, running the health sector calls for certain decisions to be made pretty fast, I gave an example that [suppose] you build a health post in Milenge and that health post has to start providing a service, before that health post is captured in the staff establishment and given the relevant positions, the community would like to see a service. And these are some of the decisions chair [that] we’ve gone to make to move some staff from maybe a district hospital to go and open that health post and start conducting deliveries and save life. We know procedurally we are not supposed to do that, we are supposed to wait until that facility has its own positions which are vacant and funded but we find ourselves in a very difficult situation and this is why we are appealing to this committee to help us lobby for Treasury authority. But we have not transferred all the 634, those [that] we have managed to transfer are the 121 because those are the ones we got treasury authority. The positions were vacant and funded and we moved them,” Dr Malama responded.

Then Committee Chairperson Howard Kunda, who is also Muchinga constituency member of parliament, questioned why rules were made if they could not be followed.

“PS just on that we have put in place rules to follow and we understand that some issues are supposed to be followed, aren’t we just supposed to follow the rules and instead follow the heart?” Kunda asked.

Dr Malama then responded by saying it was the most difficult question to handle but hastened to request for treasury authority in terms of net recruitment among others.

“That is the most difficult question that you have asked us this morning. As I said chair, it’s a difficult situation for the health sector. Definitely rules should be followed and this is what brings audit queries. Any digression from the rules then you are not operating as expected and you are queried and that is why we are here. And that is why we continue engaging cabinet office to see maybe the health sector can be looked at in a special way especially when it comes to treasury authority for net recruitment among others. But that does not exonerate us from following procedures provided for,” Dr Malama said.

And when giving his concluding analysis, Kunda observed that the biggest chunk of the queries on the ministry were emanating from procurement and supply unit.

“Looking at 2016, there were 61 queries involving an amount of K625, 537, 036. Then in 2016, the queries rose to 108 and that involved an amount of K193, 112, 837. We saw that there was a reduction in terms of the amount that was involved but the queries went up. Then this year in question and that is 2017 Auditor General’s report, the queries went down to 51 and the amount involved is K133, 151, 644. We have seen that you have reduced the number of queries even the amount that is involved as compared to 2016, but the concern is that in 2016, you had 108, we are hoping that you will not jump like you jumped from 2015. And the biggest chunk of the issues in the queries are issues on procurement and that should be looked at seriously. That is procurement and supply unit. This area of the ministry should be seriously looked at because it is carrying 68 percent of what the issues we are discussing now are,” Kunda said.

And Kunda advised the controlling officer to seriously look at the issues surrounding procurement and put in systems that would prevent irregularities under his ministry.

“Then we have on Human Resource and Administration that is the second one and it is carrying 30 percent. So you seriously need to look at this. And of course the last one is on Finance which is carrying three percent. Having said that PS, there are a number of issues that we expect as a committee that you need to seriously look at and that systems that will work for you, those systems that will control everything. We know that this ministry is big, it’s all over the country but that doesn’t not mean that you will take advantage of that and allow these irregularities to happen,” advised Kunda.

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