Tanzanian members of parliament have been urged to press the executive for more investments in the education and health sectors in order to meet its commitments to provide free education and affordable, equitable access to health services for all.
The call was made by Policy Forum member organisations SIKIKA and HakiElimu during a training session for MPs of the African Parliamentary Network against Corruption (APNAC) - Tanzania Chapter and youth and women parliamentarians in Dodoma held on the 23rd and 24th of April, 2016.
Organised by Policy Forum, in collaboration with the International Republican Institute (IRI), the session aimed at orienting parliamentarians on the budget process, providing them with the baseline knowledge to effectively oversee the executive’s management of public money and equipping them with tools to undertake analysis to support their parliamentary debates with support from CSOs.
On issues of health, Dr. Wilson Kitinya of SIKIKA urged the government to ensure that the Community Health Fund (CHF) is improved as a viable option and mechanism for financing health in Tanzania and depending less on donor contributions.
Dr. Kitinya told MPs that CHF involves communities paying monetary contributions for health care and risk pooling with government funds but individuals, if they are deemed vulnerable or poor, can be exempted.
Dr. Kitinya, however, expressed that currently the government is struggling to meet the targeted resource allocation of at least 15% of their national budget to the health sector in accordance with the Abuja Declaration and Framework for Action and donor funds were no longer as predictable in the past.
The education sector has also not seen adequate investments and the challenge has been made more complicated with a recent government pledge, through the issuance of the ‘Education Circular No. 5 of 2015’, to bankroll free education from primary to secondary school level.
Mwemezi Makumba, Programme Officer in the Research and Policy Analysis unit at HakiElimu, said the government will have to allocate not less than Tsh. 715.5 billion in the 2016/17 budget in order to cover the cost of free education, and bases this figure on the data available on the number of students, schools and requirements such as meals and infrastructure improvements.
“The government should consider costs for food (particularly porridge) at least for children in pre-schools for whom it is necessary to have a meal in schools, and to meet the cost of improvement and construction of infrastructures needed for the year, which was contributed by parents” he said adding: “We hope that the education sector’s budget for the financial year 2016/17 will increase to cover the gap created after removal of parental contributions.”
HakiElimu and SIKIKA are both member organisations participating in Policy Forum’s Budget Working Group (BWG). The former strives for an open, just and democratic Tanzania where all children enjoy the right to education that promotes equity, creativity and critical thinking and the latter works towards improved health outcomes namely healthcare governance and financing, human resources for health and medicines and medical supplies.
IRI works with newly-elected and appointed women and youth parliamentarians to enhance their knowledge and access to tools and networks to enable them to fulfil their representative, oversight and legislative duties and responsibilities.