The Financial Express

Covid exposes inept health sector

Ministry emerges as worst budget spender in past decade

| Updated: July 11, 2020 13:20:35

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
File photo used for representational purpose File photo used for representational purpose

The COVID pandemichas laid barethe health sector's horrible record, underscoring the ministry's worst performance in executing development projects in the last decade, officials said on Wednesday.

An FE analysis has found that the ministry has failed to spend more than 83 per cent of its development budget allocations on an average in each of the last 10 years since FY 2010-11.

Economists said the health ministry's longstanding inefficiency, corruption and lack of transparency have accentuated the vulnerability of the country's 170 million people during this pandemic.

They urged the government to restructure the health administration for enhancing the project implementation capacity so that it can provide better service to the people.

The health division under the health ministry could spend less than half of total allocation of Tk 74.61 billion of the annual development programme until May of the just-concluded fiscal, though the shortage of intensive care beds and proper treatment grew acute.

In contrast, the overall ADP expenditure rate by the ministries and agencies was 58 per cent in the first 11 months of FY2020.

Against this backdrop, the government has allocated around Tk 85 billion funds for the health and family welfare ministry, much lower than necessary investments required for tackling the public health emergency, analysts said.

The health services division had executed 89 per cent of its total development work in FY2019 while the rates of other ministries averaged 95 per cent.

Back in FY2011, the health ministry's development project execution capacity was better as it implemented 93 per cent of its ADP.

But since FY2012, its capacity had started to fall, which is now abysmal compared to other top development budget spenders of the government.

Between FY2015 and FY2020, the ministry was the worst-performer compared to its job from FY2011 to FY2014.

It spent 85 per cent, 81.5 per cent, 80 per cent, 89.6 per cent, 88.7 per cent, and 43.5 per cent in FY2015, FY2016, FY2017, FY2018, FY2019and in Jul-May of FY2020 respectively.

However, the ministry executed 93 per cent, 88 per cent, 92 per cent and 91 per cent of its development projects in FY2011, in FY2012, in FY2013 and in FY2014 respectively.

During the last six years, the health ministry was not able to hold its 7th to 10th position among the top 10 big development budget spenders of the government.

It was always in the 1st or 2nd or 3rd lowest ADP implementing ministry, the FE analysis has found.

Former World Bank lead economist in Dhaka DrZahidHussain told the FE: "On the one hand, the allocation for the heath sector is very low. On the other, the ministry cannot spend money what it gets every year."

He said the people do not get result from the expenditure that the government allocates for the health ministry every year.

The mismanagement, corruption and irregularities have become synonymous with the ministry for which the people are now suffering, DrHussain said.

He was critical of the government policy, saying it could have engaged other capable public agency or outsourced the health ministry's development work to the private sector.

Planning Minister MA Mannanhad earlier told the FE that they were ready to provide higher funds to the health ministry for FY2021 development budget, but could not because of its lower project implementation capacity.

Public health expert Prof Dr Rashid-e-Mahbub said the corruption and mismanagement in the health department was the main obstacles to the improvement of medicare services in the country.

The government should reform the administration and make it corruption-free for improving health facilities in Bangladesh.

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