Business as usual for health ministry

    The Ministry of Health’s development spending had stalled to a frustrating level even after 11 months of outgoing financial use for failing to accelerate spending when the public needed it most.

    The health department used Tk 3,759 million from Tk 11,971 million in the 11 months to May, which is only 32% of the appropriations allocated from the annual development program, according to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) shown.

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    Despite the government’s emphasis on the sector for the second year amid a prolonged pandemic, spending has been low.

    “The Ministry of Health has a low capacity to use the project assistance. However, it is okay when it comes to using the state coffers,” said Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, IMED secretary.

    The health services department used 48 percent of the fund disbursed from the state coffers during July-May. It was 17 percent in terms of project assistance.

    When IMED asked the ministry about the low ADP implementation, it said it works, and good progress will be visible by the end of the financial year, Tsabraporti said.

    Khondaker Golam Moazzem, director of research at the Center for Policy Dialogue, said the department’s low implementation rate showed that project managers were ineffective and did not focus on implementing health-related initiatives.

    On June 9, Abdur Rouf Talukder, senior secretary of the finance department, said money had never been a problem in fighting the public health crisis. However, the Ministry of Health could not use the funds.

    “I was surprised to see that the Ministry of Health could not spend much of the money we gave them in the midst of the pandemic,” he said at a seminar hosted by the Bangladesh Institute for Development Studies.

    Earlier, in the post-budget briefing, Talukder said the full amount could not be spent due to problems with the procurement process and the inexperience of project managers.

    Total ADP expenditure amounted to Tk 122,231 million in July-May, which was 58 per cent of the allocation. Expenditure was Tk 115,421 million in the same period a year ago.

    “Overall, the execution rate is one percentage point higher than last year,” Chakraborty said.

    “Implementation will accelerate as the year approaches.”

    According to Chakraborty, the current amount showed economic progress.

    “Physical progress was 10% higher than economic progress on average,” said the IMED secretary.

    Economic progress has been low as many bills remain pending and ministries are releasing funds after spending verification, he said.

    “Economic progress will increase as soon as the accounts are adjusted.”

    Among the top 15 ministries that received the highest funding, the local government department executed 63% of its development budget.

    The Department of Roads, Transportation and Highways spent 59 per cent of the allocation, the Department of Electricity 69 per cent, the Ministry of Railways 59 per cent, the Ministry of Science and Technology 74 per cent, and the Department of Secondary and Higher Education 54 per cent.

    Other top achievements are the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, which used 44% of the fund, the Ministry of Water Resources 60 percent, the Ministry of Shipping 49 percent, the Department of Bridges 72 percent, the Ministry of Industry 51 percent and the Office of the Prime Minister 51 percent.