Treasury on the spot over zero funding for vaccines
The National Treasury has come under fi re for the non-allocation of resources for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines in the financial year commencing in July.
In its report on the 2021/22 spending estimates, the Nation Assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) chaired by Kieni Member of Parliament Kanini Kega has expressed its dismay over the non-funding.
“There is no mention in the BPS 2021 regarding the acquisition and availability of vaccines for COVID-19 and whether it is one of the government priorities in 2021/22 and over the medium term as part of COVID-19 interventions. Further, no resources have been provided for the acquisition of vaccines,” stated the report.
Following its engagement with respective Ministerial and State Departments during its review of the estimates the BAC has now recommended the raising of the Ministry of Health’s budget ceiling by Ksh.17.6 billion.
The new allocations largely cater for personal emolument at Kenyatta National Hospital and the national referral hospitals at Ksh.9.1 billion in addition to Ksh.4.5 billion for the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines.
Total unfunded requests from departmental committees add up to Ksh.240 billion with the BAC sighting Ksh.45.5 billion as urgent funding.
Other programs sighted alongside the procurement of vaccines include Ksh.31 million to the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) to asses the performance of county governments, Ksh.7.6 billion for free secondary school capitation and Ksh.18.7 billion for the NG-CDF.
The budget making process nevertheless kicked-off in September at a time when positive vaccine news were rare and far in between to possible place the funding of vaccines by the exchequer on the back-burner at the time.
The National Treasury is now obligated to cut non-essential spending including suspending funding to new projects for a year to cater for the emerging and pressing expenditure demands.
Treasury will have all options on the table but for raising more funds through borrowing with the BAC capping the overall 2020/21 fiscal deficit at 7.5 per cent of an equivalent Ksh.930 billion.
Additionally the BAC has moved to enforce a 57:43 optimal ratio on financing on the exchequer adjusting the ceiling on net external financing to a higher Ksh.530 billion while lowering the ceiling on net domestic borrowing to Ksh.399.9 billion.
The concerns on vaccine funding comes as the country rolls out its first COVID-19 jabs on Friday accessed through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative.
The government has until now relied on the program, pioneered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Commission for its jabs as opposed to direct procurement from manufacturers.
This week the country received its first batch of 1.02 million doses from the Serum Institute of India.