Shouting match over MoH allocations

MPs from both sides raised concerns that expenses for certain segments under the ministry were not detailed in the Estimated Federal Expenditure 2021


THE debate at the lower house was more intense than usual yesterday after MPs from both sides of the divide took aim at Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali (picture) during his winding-up speech.

He was constantly interrupted by the MPs on the details of allocations for the Ministry of Health (MoH), which is the third-largest portion of the Supply Bill (Budget) 2021.

MPs from both sides raised concerns that expenses for certain segments under the ministry were not detailed in the Estimated Federal Expenditure 2021, a document which spells out the Cabinet’s outlay for the year.

Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir (Independent-Jerlun) grilled Dr Noor Azmi on radiotherapy and oncology allotments, which had been reduced by RM192 million, and the RM1.38 billion reduction on pharmaceuticals and supplies.

Datuk Jalaluddin Alias (Barisan Nasional-Jelebu) also raised a point on the RM31 million reduction on the psychiatry and mental health allocation.

Dr Noor Azmi responded that the ministerial allocation for 2021 has been increased from this year’s RM30.6 billion, adding that the government is expected to spend more than the amount set aside for next year at RM31.94 billion.

“The ministry will actually spend RM35.82 billion, which is 11.11% of the country’s GDP. “It includes RM800 million for the Covid-19 special fund, RM3 billion for vaccine procurement and the RM79.6 million additional allocation announced by the Finance Ministry,” he said.

The MPs were riled by Dr Noor Azmi’s response saying the allocations should not be implicit to get the MPs’ consensus.

Datuk Seri Dr Zulkefly Ahmad (Amanah-Kuala Selangor) claimed that the allocations are off-budget expenditure and questioned the reason for it not being in the official budget document.

The shouting match continued even after Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun slammed his gavel five times.

The allocation, however, was approved through a voice vote. Its operating expenses stood at RM27.23 billion of which the bulk is reserved for emoluments.

According to the estimation document, MoH is expected to spend RM1.9 billion for contract medical officers.

General medicine received the largest portion of the allocation for medicine supply at RM1.48 billion, followed by obstetrics and gynaecology, and paediatrics.

MoH’s development expenses stood at RM4.72 billion, with hospital facility upgrades and public-private partnership receiving the bulk of the allotment.

The lower house also approved the RM5.37 billion expenses for the Housing and Local Government Ministry (KPKT), which was passed in a bloc vote of 106 to 96.

Prior to that, a motion was tabled to slash the RM8.63 million allocation for local community activist group, Penggerak Komuniti Tempatan (PeKT), which did not receive enough votes from the floor.

The motion was raised by four Opposition MPs — Chang Lih Kang (Pakatan Harapan [PH]-Tanjong Malim), Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai), Hassan Abdul Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang) and Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau (UPKO-Tuaran).

KPKT Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said the PeKT programme is a continuation of the National Community Policy, which aims to empower leaders within communities.

“The appointment of PeKT members is made through the government and selected from those who are qualified,” she said, emphasising that the appointment is not political.

She added that the PeKT pilot projects are being implemented in Selangor, Penang and Ngeri Sembilan.

Read our earlier report

Dewan Rakyat passes third-largest ministerial budget for 2021