Health ministry denies Shs766bn scandal

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Kampala – 31 October 2020- The attention of the Ministry of Health has been drawn to the article that ran in the Saturday Vision newspaper that was published on October 31st 2020.

The article quotes an alleged report of the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit (BMAU) of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
The article was not factual and intended to cause alarm, misinform the public and portray the Ministry of Health negatively.

The Ministry of Health is disappointed with the grave omission to adhere to professional media ethics which include among others the fundamental of authenticating information.

The Ministry has since established that the article was based on an alleged draft report whose content has not been received and discussed with the Ministry.

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The Ministry further objects the manner in which the monitoring was conducted. We have since established that the team came to the Ministry and hurriedly interacted with two officers obtaining partial information without interfacing with key informants.

This is unacceptable and the Ministry management has already registered a protest with the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

The Facts on the Issues contained in the article are stated here below:

I. Funds released to the Health Sector for Fighting COVID-19
It is true that the Ministry of Health COVID-19 response plan had a budget estimate of UGX 2.2 trillion for a period of 18 months. The article also states that the Ministry received UGX 766bn towards COVID-19 response.

This is to inform the public that by June 30th 2020 the Ministry had received UGX 119bn supplementary budget. The rest were off budget commitments and expenditures by partner organisations which was expected to be spent over the 18-month period.

II. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Equipment
The supplementary funding was released to the Ministry towards end of May 2020, one month to the end of the Financial Year.

It is therefore critical to appreciate that most of the contracts were signed by end of June. It is also important to note that this was the lockdown period during which transportation and obtaining supplies globally was difficult. In addition, the International
market was experiencing high demand of the same commodities, and some equipment (e.g. x-ray) could not be obtained off-the-shelf but rather are manufactured on order. This explains the delay in supply.

At the moment, 87 ICU beds complete with ventilators, patient monitors and high flow oxygen therapy apparatus have been delivered and distributed to the various facilities across the country. Distribution list is available.
It is true that some hospitals had not received the ICU equipment by the time of monitoring due to lack of space.

The Ministry is aware of the urgent need for expansion of the ICUs in these Hospitals and has requested for supplementary funding which it has not yet been made available. Currently, ICU equipment has been installed and commissioned in 11 hospitals.

III. Unaccounted for Hospital Beds
A total of 1,000 hospital beds mattress and beddings were procured and distributed to the different COVID-19 treatment units as follows; Mulago National Specialized Hospital 300 and Namboole 700 which can be verified.

IV. Oxygen Plants
The Ministry of Health procured 4 oxygen plants for Mulago, Entebbe, Mbarara and Kayunga hospitals. These are high tech, high volume, high flow and high purity oxygen plants procured to ensure continuous supply of oxygen to patients which is also very critical in the management of COVID-19.

The specifications are fundamentally different from the 13 plants for the other referral hospitals. In addition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was increased demand and competition for oxygen plants thus the delayed supply.

V. “Fake Tents”
Again, we are disappointed by the shallow and biased reporting. The 20 tents and not only 13 as reported, were initially procured for Namboole Non-Traditional Treatment Centre.

However, they could not be anchored as this would damage the turf. A decision was therefore taken to reallocate the tents to the Regional Referral Hospitals to create additional space for treatment of COVID-19 patients. So far, the 20 tents have been delivered. For avoidance of doubt physical verification can be done.

VI. Mobile health facilities
As soon as the decision was made by the National Taskforce and the Cabinet to ease the port health testing because of the long queues of truck drivers at the border points, Ministry of Health contacted Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the local governments who agreed to avail land.

Thereafter, Ministry of Health embarked on fast tracked procurement in order to resolve the impasse that was existing at the boarder points. Although this process was not anticipated to be lengthy, it has taken us months to complete this process hence the delay. There is no cost overrun and therefore this statement is clearly false.

Ordinarily, Ministry of Health should be applauded for being proactive to solve the challenge that was at hand.

VII. “Unclear payments”
Accommodation for returnees
Whereas at the beginning of the lock down all returnees were expected to meet their costs of quarantine, cabinet later made a decision to support those that were stranded at the points of entry where there were no public quarantine facilities. This explains how Kirigime guest house was engaged by the Kabale district taskforce.

VIII. Masks
The Ministry of Health would like to clarify to the public that there are different types of masks.

i.e. surgical masks, N95 and non-medical masks which are all priced differently. It is therefore disturbing that the author of the report did not clarify the type of masks that were referred to. For avoidance of doubt the average market prices for N95 is UGX.5000 Ministry of health bought it at UGX 4,946 lower than the market price. This price is much cheaper than what the global market offers at UGX. 10,000 for the same mask.

Non-medical masks
Following the Cabinet decision to provide masks to all Ugandans above the age of 6 years, Ministry of Health computed 33 million Ugandans to be eligible. The budget requirement of UGX.81bn was requested for from the Ministry of Finance.

However, only UGX.33bn was released in July 2020. Contrary to the report, suppliers were contracted under framework arrangement to supply the masks and call of orders were issued.

Each mask was procured at UGX 2,400. To date, Ministry of Health has distributed over 26.4 million masks worth UGX 63.3bn which is far more than the 33bn provided.
Ministry of Finance committed to providing the total required amount to fulfil this obligation.

IX. “Spray pumps missing”
The pumps were procured and none is missing as alleged in the report. The process of distribution is ongoing and the details can be accessed at the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health requests the public to stay calm and not be enraged by un-researched and diversionary reporting especially at such a time when we need everyone’s support to fight this pandemic. We shall continue providing our services diligently, committedly and professionally to keep all Ugandans safe and healthy.

All the information concerning COVID-19 response activities is available at the Ministry of Health and can be provided on request.

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