Govt does not have systematic and detailed information about COVID-19 expenses
February 16, 2021 06:00 PM NPT
By: BP Aryal
KATHMANDU, Feb 17: The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), a key body to address public health concerns, has not been proactive to share the detailed information about COVID-19 funds, its allocation and records of spending by different government bodies.
The KP Oli-led government started allocating a budget to fight the pandemic. The government has allocated budget for the MoHP, seven provincial governments and the 753 local bodies.
Officials at the MoHP said that they did not have the detailed spending records of the seven provinces, local bodies and the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM). “We are only concerned about the budget allocated for the MoHP,” said Dr Jageshwar Gautam, MoHP spokesperson.
However, Dr Gautam did not divulge the details of the COVID-19 fund allocation and expenditures made by different health institutions and hospitals under the ministry. “We have kept all information on our ministry website, you can get them from there,” he claimed.
However, the website has not been updated. It has uploaded press releases and the data of tested COVID-19 cases. The budget details after fiscal year 2070/71 BS are not available.
When asked again about the COVID-19 budget allocation and expenses, Dr Gautam was not interested to entertain the question. “You won’t get answers to all these questions however many times you ask,” he said.
“We have the records of expenses but in different and separate documents and files,” said Dr Gautam. “We need at least 10 days to assemble them and keep in order,” he said. “We can share this information only when we prepare the updated records. We will provide you when the ministry makes its records systematic,” he added.
The other officials at the ministry also did not provide the detailed information and passed the buck to Spokesperson Dr Gautam and other bodies. “The Department of Health Services (DoHS) may have records of the COVID-19 funds,” they said.
Dr Dipendra Raman Singh, Director General at the DoHS, wasn’t interested in talking about the COVID-19 expenses. Dr Singh did not answer our phone calls and text messages.
Requesting anonymity, some health ministry officials said, “In recent months, COVID-19 mitigation activities have gone down but the budget has been regularly disbursed and spent. There may be misuse of funds, however, it’s not easy to trace that.”
According to health ministry sources, the government allocated a total of six billion for COVID-19 mitigation in FY 2020/21. The OPMCM released 174.569 million rupees to the MoHP for COVID-19 management in the last fiscal year. Similarly, the MoHP disbursed a total of 1.3 billion rupees under the OPMCM ceiling to 28 hospitals and medical institutes in the current fiscal year but the ministry has not received details of its expenditures, said the ministry officials.
The OPMCM has the biggest fund in the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund (Emergency and COVID management). The OPMCM said that it allocates funds to the ministry, provinces and local bodies. “In addition to this, the provinces and local bodies have also their own budget for the pandemic,” said Shankar Nepal, spokesperson for the OPMCM. “We are unable to provide the actual amounts spent by the provinces and the local bodies,” he added. “Additionally, they also allocate their own budget for the pandemic.”
According to the OPMCM, 2.87 billion rupees was set aside for the pandemic. Of this, 2.525 billion rupees was disbursed through the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) to different bodies. Rs 380 million was sent to the seven provincial governments, 649 million rupees to 649 local bodies (one million rupees each), 913.4 million rupees to different hospitals and laboratories for equipment and ICU beds, 400 million rupees to 452 local bodies for quarantine management and 27.7 million rupees to different border holdings to manage comers.