By Francis Kagolo
ACCOUNTABILITY for the Global Fund aid to Uganda has again come under scrutiny after the Auditor General (AG) questioned the over sh294.7b spent in the 2012/2013 financial year.
The money in question was spent on fighting HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria under Malaria Round 10 component.
Over 1.2 million Ugandans have HIV, Malaria claims about 320 daily, while the World Health Organisation still ranks Uganda as one of the countries with a high TB burden.
“The amount was meant for medicines and Pharmaceutical products and equipment and for procurement supply and chain management. (However) records on the utilisation of the funds were not availed for audit,” the AG John Muwanga states in his report for the year ended June 2013.
With a funding portfolio worth over $19.9b in 2010, the Global Fund emerged the main source of financing in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. Over 40% of the funds are committed to the procurement and management of pharmaceuticals and other health products.
Uganda received its first Global Fund grant of $45m in 2005, but was suspended soon after, when PricewaterhouseCoopers unearthed fraud.
A commission of inquiry headed by Justice James Ogoola later confirmed that the funds were grossly mismanaged and consequent prosecutions yielded convictions.
Teddy Seezi Cheeye, former director for economic monitoring in the Internal Security Organisation, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for misappropriating money allocated to his organisation, Uganda Centre for Accountability.
Cheeye was also ordered to refund sh110m of the sh120m advanced to his organisation.
The former director of programmes in the defunct Uganda Television, Salongo Kavuma, was sentenced to five years imprisonment and forced to refund sh49m.
The other convicts were Annaliza Mondon and Elizabeth Ngororano, who were also ordered to refund the money in addition to serving their prison sentences. All four were found to have embezzled Global Fund money through their NGOs.
In 2007, Global Fund again terminated two grants to Uganda for malaria and tuberculosis because of what it called “unsatisfactory performance”. As a result, Uganda missed about $16m (sh28b).
However, Jim Arinaitwe, the Global Funds coordinator (UAC) at the ministry of health, yesterday explained that the new Auditor General’s report should not make Ugandans to panic.
He explained that since the Global Fund established the Voluntary Pooled Procurement (VPP) system about two years ago, recipient countries no longer coordinate procurement of drugs.
Under the new system, Arinaitwe explained, funds are held and procurements coordinated in Geneva where documents are also retained.
“People still think we are the ones spending the money. This is not true,” Arinaitwe told New Vision.
“The ministry only gives projections and asks Global Fund to procure drugs and other supplies for Uganda. The funds are controlled in Geneva. So the Auditor General cannot find any documents in Uganda.”
The Global Fund website says the VPP system was introduced to address key procurement-related bottlenecks which negatively impacted grant performance and access to medicines and health products.