Members of Parliament have voiced strong opposition to a proposal by government to loan a private company shs1.3 trillion (USD379.7m) to finance the construction of a specialised hospital in Lubowa, Wakiso District.
The International Specialised Hospital of Uganda, whose construction was launched by President Yoweri Museveni in 2016, has since stalled due to lack of funds.
In a proposal through the Finance State Minister, Hon David Bahati, Italian investors under the name Finasi Roko Construction SPV Limited now want to have the project financed through a promissory note from government, a request that easily sparked controversy.
If the promissory note is guaranteed by Parliament, government is to finance the firm to construct and run the specialized facility and pay back within eight years from the commencement of operations.
Bahati wanted Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah to have the matter decided without being taken to the Committee on National Economy, a proposal MPs shot down.
MP Sam Lyomoki (NRM, Workers), saw shame in the proposal.
“We are stuck with Mulago Hospital…this type of motion is a shame to government; why can’t we finance Mulago instead?” said Lyomoki.
He found an ally in MP Hassan Kaps Fungaroo (FDC, Obongi).
“We would like to know who the owners of this company are. Why do we have investors who do not have money? Why don’t we invest our own money instead of giving it to investors who don’t have money?” said Fungaroo.
He also took issue with the hospital’s location, saying it should be taken to Karamoja or other districts upcountry.
MP Muhammad Nsereko (IND, Kampala Central) said the proposal should be defeated and five regional referral hospitals be constructed in its place.
“This country is yearning for referral hospitals…we can use this money to construct one regional referral hospital in five regions instead of financing a private centre,” he said.
MP Ronnie Mutebi (Buikwe South) supported the proposal.
“This country has been committing a lot of money in taking Ugandans out of the country for treatment…I don’t see anything wrong with that project,” said Mutebi.
Minister Bahati placed the money incurred on medical tourism at Shs267.7b (USD 73m) in every Financial Year.
He said the country will ultimately save that money should the project be financed, and the specialised treatment sought abroad instead offered in Uganda.
Oulanyah referred the matter to the Committee on National Economy, giving it 20 working days within which to report its findings to the House.
This was a compromise position resulting from a proposal by Bahati to have the matter considered without Committee input, a matter that attracted intense opposition.
MP Muwanga Kivumbi (DP, Butambala) said the proposal couldn’t be considered without Committee scrutiny, saying that would violate article 159 of the Constitution and section 39 of the Public Finance Management Act.