Three district health officers (DHOs) on Monday told the Health Committee of Parliament they have no control over their drug budgets due to the centralised disbursement of funds.
The DHOs’ statement comes against the background of accusations by former Minister of Health Jean Kalilani that some of them were pilfering drugs or failing to plan for stocks.
Parliament’s Health Committee is this week holding hearings with various players in the health sector, including DHOs, Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST), Treasury and National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC), in the course of compiling a report that would give a comprehensive picture of what has led to drug shortages in the country.
The three DHOs are Medson Matchaya of Blantyre, Charles Sungani of Karonga and Jerome Nkhambule of Kasungu.
Matchaya told the committee in Lilongwe that he had only learnt recently that Blantyre DHO has a drug budget of K1.3 billion just like how he was informed at the end of the financial year that he had not utilised close to K200 million.
He said the current system of managing the drug budget could be attributed to the fact that in many cases, DHOs do not even see the vouchers which were used to order the drugs.
Sungani agreed with Matchaya that when he orders drugs, he does not receive invoices because all payments are done at centrally.
Treasury blamed CMST for failing to enable the Ministry of Health and NLGFC make payments on time hence resulting in unused funds amounting to K500 million in the 2014/15 financial year.
Following a meeting which Kalirani, now Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, had with DHOs and CMST earlier this month, the supply chain system of medicines and medical supplies identified obstacles which have led to drug shortages in the country.
Ministry of Health said DHOs will have to adhere to set deadlines for submitting orders to CMST and the ministry would pilot a computerised system to link hospital departments with the pharmacy to ensure accountability and reduce pilferage.