BY VANESSA GONYE/HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
Government yesterday said at least $119 million has been spent on daily allowances and lunch for health professionals administering COVID-19 vaccination across the country, while only $99 million was used for their personal protective equipment (PPE), raising fears of corruption.
This was revealed during a presentation on the use of COVID-19 funds by the Health ministry before the Ruth Labode-led Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Health and Child Care yesterday.
According to the statement, from a total of $560 435 388,48, daily subsistence allowances and lunch gobbled a huge chunk of about $119 266 955, followed by advocacy and communication, which chewed $104 869 103,75 and data collection and tools, which was allocated $100 562 563.
PPE came at fourth with $99 210 000, followed by planning and training, which gobbled $75 165 216,38.
Fuel was allocated a measly $1 736 175.
The $560 435 388,48 was for the vaccine rollout programme, from February this year until it ends.
While responding to a question on disparities in vaccination between urban and rural centres, Health Care ministry secretary Jasper Chimedza said they were on track in the vaccination campaign despite limited resources.
“Despite the limited resources, we are doing the best vaccination programme in Africa. We are working through the provincial medical directors (PMDs) and provincial taskforce teams to be able to mobilise as well as reach hard-to-reach areas,” Chimedza said.
“Existing health centres cater for communities that are geographically dispersed, hence some can be reached through outreach. Secondly, in the context of COVID-19, it is advisable to reach out to people rather than gathering people together justifying the need to vaccinate people in their communities.”
Labode queried lack of fuel in deserving areas despite a huge amount having been allocated for the purpose.
“So much money was put on fuel, but it has not reached the intended areas,” she said.
There have been reports of teams using their own resources to ensure they go to places for vaccination.
“Disbursements were made using an existing government payments system that is in use for all other funds that we are receiving. Detailed budgets were available to assist the managers in the necessary decision-making. Furthermore, where necessary, the finance department had to write emails to the PMDs, informing them of the disbursement,” Chimedza said.
He said follow-ups and verifications were scheduled to be done by head office finance and audit teams though they had been halted due to COVID-19 and will be finalised when the lockdown restrictions are removed.
Routine internal audit is being done for all funds disbursed to the various institutions.
Zimbabwe embarked on a vaccination programme in February and by yesterday morning, 1 491 493 had received their first doses, while 687 216 have had their second doses.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, government has been under pressure to account for its COVID-19 spending, with fears that a lot of money could be lost to corruption.
Last year, former Health minister Obadiah Moyo was fired over his involvement in a US$60 million COVID-19 tender awarded to Drax International, a company fronted by Delish Nguwaya, a close ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family.
There has also been opaqueness on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, with government not willing to disclose how much it is spending.