A meeting between senior government health and finance officials and Medecins Sans Frontieres last week could result in more transparency in the country’s health budget, officials said.
Minister of Health Dr Hong Sun Huot said Tuesday that senior Ministry of Finance officials promised to make available monthly provincial allocation figures starting in January, something not done in the past. He said Finance Minister Keat Chhon has agreed to funnel more money directly to provincial governors, so that they will have more freedom to operate.
Hong Sun Huot called the two-hour meeting last week after MSF (Belgium, Holland, Switzerland) revealed it was considering pulling its public health projects out of Cambodia because of lack of government commitment to disburse budgeted funds to provincial health programs.
Maurits van Pelt, MSF country director, said non-disclosure has been a problem. “As long as these figures are kept secret, basically anything can happen,” he said.
Hong Sun Huot said more budget transparency would better arm his team of provincial representatives to help provincial health directors.
He warned, though, that it would not solve all rural public health problems. Health organizations have expressed concerns in the past over the accountability of money coming into provincial governors, who then require provincial health directors to request money from them.
But MSF has so far been the most vocal. In August they sent a letter to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Finance, saying they would throw in the towel if the situation did not improve.