Former Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Canisius Banda says the ministry’s decision to suspend sponsorship to programmes under certain departments could have been prevented if it adhered to proper procurement guidelines.

Commenting on the Ministry of Health’s decision to suspend all sponsorship of programmes at all provinces, district departments and training institutes, Dr Banda argued that the health sector should have retained its sponsorship despite the austerity measures.

“As a governance guiding principle, in all cases of expenditure, across ministries, there exist certain government activities that, for reasons of national security, which trump all austerity measures, must remain funded by ourselves and should never be left in foreign hands alone. Further, in keeping with the austere economic environment that Zambia finds itself in, it is imperative that the Ministry of Health begins to correctly price all its procurements [avoid over-pricing] as this will significantly enhance and consolidate our national journey towards fiscal discipline. This measure alone would lead to savings of colossal amounts of funds, a situation which could preclude the very intervention contained in the circular,” Dr Banda said.

“This contradicts the official position given by the Chief Government Spokesperson and Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Dora Siliya, when she recently said: ‘All funding to the Ministry of Health will continue in full [unhindered] even under the prevailing austerity measures.’ I think that the VP also echoed this view. For example, expenditure on non-essential activities can be reduced, deferred or cancelled. This includes, but is not limited to: removal of duplicated programmes by different actors in health (organizations); holding all workshops in government boardrooms and scaling-down on foreign travel.”

He said some programmes need sustained sponsorship.

“Well, though not clearly stated in the Circular, it refers to scholarships and the training of those already in service/employed and seek additional education. Nonetheless, certain fields should remain sponsored. For example, Degree in post-basic nursing, which produces nurses, and specialties of surgery, medicine and pediatrics. A fraction, based on our need and national security concerns, should remain in our hands. Sponsorship of vital post-graduate courses provided by our own Zambian-owned universities, as opposed to foreign ones, should remain a national priority,” said Dr Banda.