Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate has indicated its readiness to amend the 2007 Public Procurement Act over the reported cumbersomeness in adhering strictly to its provisions.
Chairman of the Senate committee on Priimary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, dropped this hint at the weekend while playing host to the executive of the Society of Public Health Professionals of Nigeria (SPHPN), in his office.
Senator Utazi, therefore, assured the health workers of the readiness of his committee and that of the tertiary health, to find solutions to the problems associated with the Act.
According to him, the required amendments on the Public Procurement Act , would be carried out to give the health sector exemption from some of its provisions delaying procurement and project execution in the country .
He emphasised that “procurement cycle of eight to nine months is injurious to a sector as highly sensitive as the health sector.”
According to him, since there is no room for pre- financing in the Act, it will have to be amended to pave way for hospitals to procure drugs from the beginning of the year for usage by patients .
“This trend of returning almost half of the monies released back to the treasury on yearly basis with empty pharmaceutical units at the various hospitals is injurious to the populace and will be stopped by amending the Act in favour of the health sector “, Senator Utazi further said.
The Society of Public Health Professionals of Nigeria (SPHPN) had earlier informed Senator Utazi that the alleged cubersomeness of adhering to the provisions of the Act in contracts awards and executions is crippling the health sector in the country.
Its President, Prof MC Azuru, represented by Dr Tolu Fakeye, while lamenting the adverse effects of provisions of the Act, specifically mentioned the yearly non-availability of drugs at the various primary health care centres in the country for patients and also the annual return of substantial parts of capital budgetary allocations released for the sector into the national treasury.
Fakeye, explained that the problem has been there for over ten years now since the Act came into force.
Said he: “For instance in 2012, out of the N45billion released as capital allocations to the sector, only N33.68billion was spent while N11.32 billion had to be returned to the treasury.
From 2009 to 2018 , the story has not changed because the country’s budget cycle did not allow for proper utilization of budgetary allocations to the health sector and even compounded with the cumbersomeness of the procurement processses , provided for by provisions of the 2007 Public Procurement Act.
“In 2018, out of the N21.62billion released for procurement of drugs and other capital projects, only N13.35 billion was utilized while the balance of N8.27billion was returned to the treasury due to expiration of time line for utilization of such funds”.
Fakeye also complained of gross underfunding of the health sector by successive governments in the as clearly shown with yearly money appropriated and releases made.
The trend, he explained, became worrisome years after as shown with the N141.62billion capital allocations appropriated for the sector in 2018 but with meagre cash backing of just N21.62billion which represented 15.3% of the entire allocation and out of which only N13.35bn was utilized in strict adherence to the Procurement Act.
“For better health care service delivery to Nigerians , particularly at the grassroots through the Primary Health Care Centres , both the problems of gross underfunding of the sector and delays on utilization of monies released , must be addressed very urgently by government at all levels”, he stated.