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PARLIAMENT APPROVES E48M FOR CORONAVIRUS BUDGET

By Sifiso Dlamini | 2020-03-10

Parliament yesterday took a cautious approach to funding for the coronavirus outbreak preparedness, granting only E48m to the ministry of health for this pandemic.

The measure MPs took yesterday was that they wanted to ensure the funds were utilised for the right reasons, further assuring the ministry that the balance of the E100m requested for the project would be released as and when requested.

The ministry of finance tabled the Supplementary Appropriation Bill No. 5 of 2020, which was tabled in the House of Assembly on Thursday.

The ministry of finance had initially requested for E100 million and the ministry organised a workshop for the finance committee to capacitate the committee members on the contents of the bill. The workshop was held at the Royal Swazi Spa on Sunday due to the urgency of the matter at hand.

Committee Vice Chairperson Lutfo Dlamini yesterday presented the committee report, where he outlined that following the committee’s deliberation on the proposed supplementary budget, appropriating the E100 million budget request at once would be of high risk considering the spending pattern of the government.

Committee Chairperson Manzini South MP Thandi Nxumalo also supported the passing and adoption of the bill, while outlining the importance for the country’s health sector to be prepared for a possible outbreak.

MP Dlamini said the house, therefore requested to adopt the report of the committee and further approve the supplementary budget amounting to E100 million with conditions that E48 million was to be released with immediate effect and E52 million to be kept under Head 60 Central Transfers until the minister requested for its release from parliament through the finance committee as the need arose.

“In as much as the ministry requested for E100 million, we cannot just approve the entire requested amount keeping in mind past experiences with government spending,” he said.

He said it was important to ensure that the public funds were not lost to bobhabuli.

He further substantiated the committee’s stance by saying that Eswatini was a landlocked country and the neighbouring countries were also taking their own precautionary measures, therefore the E48m would be enough for a start.  “The important thing is that we follow the precautionary measures as a country for prevention and to provide a quarantine area for confirmed cases,” he said. Regarding the availability of protective gear in the market, the ministry of health indicated that subsequent to the news of the outbreak in Southern Africa, the ministry made quotations and were in constant communication with government suppliers and they were responding positively; however the ministry had been alerted of an impending shortage in supplies globally.

The committee also enquired from the ministry of finance if the funds were readily available, and were informed that this was an emergency and the ministry of finance would use the available cash collections from SRA to finance the expenditure.

“The good thing is that the expenditure would be in stages not all at once,” he said.

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