By Pamela Shumba
Senators on Thursday grilled the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development Terrence Mukupe on why Treasury was only disbursing 50 percent of the health levy fund from airtime to the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
Introduced in 2016, the health fund is a Government levy of five percent on every dollar purchase of airtime and mobile data.
Although Deputy Minister Mukupe said he was not aware that only 50 percent was going to the Ministry of Health, Senators said they had evidence to that effect.
Manicaland Senator David Chimhini demanded clarity from the Deputy Minister on why the ministry of health was not receiving the levy in full.
“Sometime last year, Parliamentarians advocated for the health fund levy from airtime, which was approved by Government, but what we now hear is that only 50 percent goes to the health sector. We want to know what is happening with the other 50 percent because this money is meant specifically for the health sector.
“We have it on good authority from the Ministry of Health that not all the money is handed over to them. They came here for oral evidence. I’m surprised that the Ministry of Finance is not aware,” said Sen Chimhini.
Deputy Minister Mukupe said he was not aware that the Ministry of Health was receiving half of the levy, adding that as far as he was concerned the money was subject to promulgation through the Finance Act and it was being used for the purpose that it was promulgated for.
“I think the Senators are confusing disbursement and the usage of funds. These are two different things. What I know is that some of the things that the Ministry wanted to use the funds for were actually things that they were going to be importing, especially on the drugs and that would be dependent on the availability of foreign currency from the central bank.
“So I can’t comment on what the Minister of Health was stating, but I am pointing out what we are carrying out as the Ministry of Finance,” said Deputy Minister Mukupe.
Midlands Senator, Lillian Timveos, who is the chairperson of the HIV and Aids committee, insisted that Deputy Minister Mukupe should enlighten the Senators on what was happening to the other 50 percent of the levy.
“As the chairperson of the HIV and Aids committee, we actually had oral evidence from the Ministry of Health. They actually confirmed under oath that they only get 50 percent of this airtime levy.
“There is actually a committee that does this. Surely Treasury should know where the other 50 percent is going. Please, enlighten us,” said Sen Timveos.
The Deputy Minister responded saying: “I will stick to my statement. As I have stated, we are passing on the funds for the purposes for which they are intended for. That is my answer.”
Last year, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care called for the transfer of the health fund levy from the finance ministry to an independent body in the same manner in which the Aids levy is administered by the National Aids Council.
The Parliamentarians expressed fear that the fund might end up being diverted for other programmes other than funding health. The Chronicle