July 8, 2015 5:50:30 pm
The Mizoram government last year spent the equivalent of roughly one-fourth or the revenue it has been able to generate in a year to pay for the medical reimbursements of it’s employees, according to a reply to a starred assembly question by state Finance Minister Lalsawta on Wednesday.
Replying to a starred question by opposition MLA Dr K Beichhua, Lalsawta said Mizoram spent Rs 81.78 crores in the 2014-15 financial year as medical reimbursements.
He added an eight-member committee has been formed to look into this aspect of government expenditure, considered a major head in a state where crippling finances has been the norm for years.
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The amount of Rs 81.78 crores is significant because the Mizoram government has generated no more than Rs 424 crores annually on it’s own for the past half-decade (The state’s average revenue generation has been just over Rs 340 crores in this period, swinging between a low of Rs 234 crores in 2009-10 to a high of Rs 436 crores in 2012-13, according to the CAG).
The rest of the state’s finances come from the central government either as grants-in-aid or central tax transfers which make up roughly 90% of the state’s total revenue year after year.
The Finance Minister’s disclosure evoked a string of questions and comments from both the opposition and ruling MLAs.
Lalrinliana Sailo, a former Health Minister, said during his tenure it was estimated that as much as Rs 170 crores was spent annually when doctors in Mizoram refer patients to hospitals in other states. Sailo blamed this on the lack of proper medical facilities in Mizoram and suggested the money spent on medical referrals can be stemmed if the Health Department better-equipped doctors within the state.
T Sangkunga, a Congress MLA, asked what the committee’s terms of reference are even as Dr K Beichhua, who asked the starred question, asked if the committee has made any headway into resolving the issue and whether there are pending medical bills waiting for reimbursements.
Lalsawta, the Finance Minister, replied that the committee has been asked to submit a report on ways to slash the expenditure within six months and added Sailo’s advice on bettering medical equipments is also being taken into consideration.
Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla also took part in the discussion and said he has asked the committee to submit it’s report within three months instead of six, and that he has realised after the issue was brought to the government’s notice that there is virtually no cross-checking of medical bills submitted by government employees and that many reportedly avail medical services without considering costs or entitlements.
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