In 2008, while health experts convened to develop the Health Sector Strategic Plan III, at least three officials in the ministry of public service were plotting to steal over sh170b meant for pension.
From an analysis by experts, Sunday Vision reveals that the amount of money unearthed in the probe into the ministry of public service and the office of the Prime Minister alone can save the lives of 2,000 expectant mothers.
Mid this year, chilling details emerged showing that up to sh169b and not sh63b, could have been lost in payment to over 3,000 ghost pensioners by the ministry of public service.
Police investigations also revealed another $113,000 (about sh282.5m) suspected fraudulent payment to foreign pensioners, part of the wider probe which began as a sh63b scam but has since risen to sh169b.
Police forensic investigations had earlier unearthed sh11.4b as having been misappropriated through Crisis Management and Recovery Account in the office of the Prime Minister.
This is in addition to over sh15.7b reportedly siphoned by the former principal accountant in OPM, Geoffrey Kazinda. This brings the amount unearthed in both probes so far to about sh200b.
Corruption in health
The probe in the Ministry of Health is multi-faceted and focuses on the alleged mismanagement of the Global Funds meant for Malaria in which it is suspected that about sh78b, meant for GF’s Round 4 Malaria phase 2 and Round 7 Malaria phase 1, went missing, and the other being the component on HIV/AIDS while the probe into the National Drug Authority (NDA) is on the alleged mismanagement of funds amounting to over sh 2b.
Uganda spends at least sh600b every year on health, but much of this goes into paying salaries, procuring equipment and other facilities. With one of the highest fertility rates in the world, at least one million Ugandan women give birth annually.
According to Vura County MP, Dr. Sam Okuonzi, a functional health centre III which is sufficient to handle emergencies pertaining to delivery requires a minimum of sh50m to provide basic antenatal services for a year.
“On average, the unit cost of delivering a baby at a health centre III facility is sh75,000 per mother,” he states. “Therefore, with the sh200b so far discovered, the amount is sufficient to equip at least 2,000 health centre III across the country, thereby minimizing pregnancy related complications,” he adds.
This view is shared by Dr. Margaret Mungherera, the newly elected President of the World Medical Workers Association.
“We have always said the money to motivate health workers can be raised, just that it is often misused,” she says. “With sh200b, the Government can recruit more health workers and save mothers from dying. In Uganda, 500 women give birth every month.
That money could help to prevent noncommunicable diseases and improve the general social-economic life of citizens,” Mungherera explains.
Okuonzi notes that most of the health centres operate without basic imaging and surgery equipment, no ambulance or facilities for emergency obstetric care, which are key in public healthcare.
The UN Population Fund Uganda estimates that Uganda loses about sh275b annually in health care costs associated with pregnancy-related complications.
Uganda still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world at 435 deaths per 100,000 births, with unsafe abortion causing up to 26% of the maternal deaths. Out of every 25 pregnant women, one faces a life time risk of pregnancy related death.
Faced with budget cuts, sh200b would go a long way to improve the welfare of underpaid health workers which has a turn-around effect on the country’s development.
According to the 2012/13 National Budget framework paper, the health ministry’s budget reduced from sh852b to sh800b.
A stand-off between Parliament and the Executive over the failure to reallocate an additional sh260b to health, tells of the dire need to give focus to the sector.
ROT in education ministry
In the education ministry, the probe is on allegations of fraud and gross mismanagement of a World Bank funded project, leading to loss of millions of shillings and also allegations of sectarianism and nepotism in the ministry.
Corruption in works ministry
The Police is probing 18 projects worth over sh36b in which sh8b is thought to have been lost. A number of top ministry engineers have been interdicted and questioned.
In addition, several directors of construction firms have been questioned following a presidential directive after it emerged that the ministry of local government, the Police are probing mismangement of projects for development of markets in about eight districts.
There are also investigations into alleged theft of sh2b for capacity building in the local government. In the National Drug Authority, the probe is on alleged mismanagement of funds amounting to oversh2b.
The money was for operational activities such as travel and motor vehicle maitainance. Several officials, formers NDA board members as well as the former director, Dr. Apollo Muheirwe, have been questioned.
The Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate(CIID) chief, Grace Akullo, said a number of officials from various ministries that are under investigations have been arrested, questioned and recorded statements with the Police on holding charges of abuse of office, embezzlement, causing financial loss, conspiracy to defraud, forgery and false accountability.
Police alleges that: “Employees have siphoned from the Government bodies and failed to execute their duties as per the oath of a civil service.”
Akullo added that on a daily basis as the Police detectives continue to investigate these cases, more sums of money are unearthed. She says the Police can not even specify on a given amount,” she said.