More spent on advocacy than on vaccine drive
By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake
The Government has spent more money from the Itukama COVID-19 relief fund for advocacy programmes on COVID-19 than on the vaccination drive in Sri Lanka, it was reiterated in Parliament on Wednesday (23). Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi stated that Rs. 67.5 million has been spent on advocacy programmes whereas Rs. 41.4 million has been spent on the vaccination drive. She told Parliament that a sum of Rs. 189.7 million has been spent on COVID-19 control from the Itukama fund.
The Minister revealed this information in response to a question raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa under the Standing Order 27/2. “Rs. 67.5 million has been spent on advocacy programmes about the fund while Rs. 42.6 million has been spent on PCR tests. Rs. 41.4 million has been spent on the vaccination drive.
Also, another Rs. 38 million has been spent on increasing facilities at quarantine centres. She said that during the first and second waves of the pandemic, money had been withdrawn from the fund for awareness programmes regarding the fund in three separate times. These monies were used for TV and radio programmes, handbills, newspaper advertisements etc.
“Procurement process to buy ambulances is being conducted at the moment. The proposal for buying ambulances was presented by the Sri Lanka Army. Money has not been released from the fund for this purpose yet,” Wanniarachchi said. She said that 17 officials appointed by the President, including the Central Bank Governor, are regulating the fund.
A detailed report on how the money was spent will be presented to Parliament soon, she said. Speaking further, the Minister said the country is acquiring cryogenic liquid oxygen tanks for six hospitals to ensure availability. We will also buy concentrators and 2,500 mobile concentrators to expand supply, she added.
“The Cabinet authorised bidding for six cryogenic oxygen tanks with a 22 tonne capacity through Ceylon Oxygen Limited and Gas World Pvt Ltd. Bids will also be called to purchase 120,000 litres of Medical Oxygen monthly to meet the demand and the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation will carry out the procurement process,” Wanniarachchi said. Moreover, the purchase of oxygen concentrators to 14 hospitals at the district level has been approved by the Cabinet while 2,500 portable oxygen concentrators would be bought in order to provide 100 units to each district, she noted.