By Chris Kiwawulo & E. Basudde
THE National Medical Stores (NMS) is under investigation for failing to explain how the distribution of HIV testing kits and other medical supplies worth over sh58.5b, was done.
This has resulted into the cancellation of funding from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US to NMS. The money was meat for the procurement of kits and other supplies for public health facilities. The grant was to be disbursed from September 30, 2010 to September 29, 2015.
By the time CDC cancelled the funding, sh58.5b had been released to NMS between 2010/11 and 2012/13, sources revealed. The funding, awarded on August 24, 2010, was for purchasing, storing and distributing HIV/AIDS and other rapid test kits, stains, blood grouping anti-serum, chemicals, auto-analyser platform reagents, sample collection materials, waste management materials, sundries and a drug known as cotrimoxazole.
Data obtained from the US embassy, which oversees CDC operations in Uganda, shows that CDC released $9,050,013 (sh22.6b) in 2010/11, $8,550,013 (sh21.3b) in 2011/12 and $5,850,013 (sh14.6b) in 2012/13.
Saturday Vision has established that $3,219,385 (over sh8b), which CDC had approved for 2013/14, was withheld over accountability queries. The funding was for the purchase, distribution and tracking of HIV/AIDS related laboratory supplies and the cotrimoxazole drug under PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).
Daniel Travis, the US Embassy spokesperson, confirmed CDC’s cancellation of funding to NMS. “We have been reviewing supply chain issues at NMS.
There is much information outstanding and until we have greater clarity on these issues, we will be using alternative supply/distribution systems. Right now we are not putting money into NMS.”
He said the matter was under investigation by the US Government. Saturday Vision also established that the CDC now procures HIV testing kits and other supplies through Medical Access Uganda Limited, which supplies ARVs and kits to private and not for profit health facilities.
However, NMS spokesperson Dan Kimosho denied reports that the funding was stopped over supply chain issues.
“The communication we got from CDC was that they stopped the funding because of the credit crunch. It would be dishonest of them to claim that they did not give us money because of faults, yet they told us they were broke.”
Kimosho said CDC auditors had not, at any point expressed any misgivings regarding the funds. Some civil society organisations (CSOs) have, however, accused NMS of continuously peddling lies on the matter of HIV testing kit stock-outs.
“The January 2014 stock status report presented and accepted at the SCG (Commodity Security Group) meeting on February 13 shows no stock outs of test kits at warehouse level,” a communication among the CSOs read.
A test kit contains a rapid HIV testing strip and costs sh5, 000. When contacted, the health ministry spokesperson, Rukia Nakamatte, said she could not readily comment on the cancellation.
According to the Uganda AIDS Commission, HIV testing and treatment are essential factors in HIV rollback programmes.
Currently, about 300 people get infected with HIV every day.