Murinzi, in his petition to Museveni, said the “rise of Otafiire’s opposition that can match the power of the bully pulpit foreshadows many of the healthcare problems we face as a nation.”
The chief executive officer of a US-based health insurance firm, CareRight Healthcare Inc, has written to President Yoweri Museveni accusing justice and constitutional affairs minister Kahinda Otafiire of blocking a sh361b health insurance scheme in Uganda.
It was reported recently that Julius Murinzi had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Government to establish the scheme.
However, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine, said the ministry was not aware of the deal. Murinzi, in his petition to Museveni, said the “rise of Otafiire’s opposition that can match the power of the bully pulpit foreshadows many of the healthcare problems we face as a nation.”
“Otafiire has a detached, limited concept of the healthcare provision; and yet, the cost of his own family hospitalisation should make him more aware of how impossible it is for those less wealthy to bear such a burden,” he said in a letter seen by Sunday Vision.
Murinzi argued that during this time, he has been pushing on the healthcare work for the country through difficulties. “I have brought it to the verge of execution, without any act of assistance from your government, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour,” he stated. He told Museveni he had enclosed the legal statement on Otafiire’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’ for his information.
He explained that Otafiire agreed to invest $100,000 in the company. He claimed that the money was sent to Freda Nayebare, Otafiiire’s wife, who later declined to transfer it to his company’s account.
Murinzi contended that the CareRight HealthCare Plan is the long-sought plan that would enable Ugandan working men and women to contribute to their own health insurance programme under social security, instead of forcing them, once their jobs and savings were gone, to fall back on family or private charity.
“I at last deliver to Ugandans a healthcare plan which I have long promised, and of which, I am afraid, too high expectations have been raised. The delay of its implementation must be imputed, in a considerable degree to the extraordinary zeal which has been shown by distinguished persons in all quarters of the world of health,” he promised.
Murinzi told Museveni that “undoubtedly, this ambitious and balanced plan which was designed after three years of consulting across the globe is a historic turning point in the goal of creating a system of universal coverage; a single payer national health plan like those that exist in America, Canada and Europe.”
When contacted, Otafiire did not mince words, describing Murinzi as “fraudster”. “He is an outright conman. He will defraud us. We have to be very, very careful with him,” Otafiire told Sunday Vision on Thursday. When asked about the alleged corruption scandals Murinzi talked about, the minister said: “That man organised a company (CareRight Healthcare Inc) in the US and approached me, Ezra Suruma (former finance minister) and other Ugandans to invest in it,” he recalled.
“We were interested in the project because it looked very rosy, but before we could participate, the Ugandan community in Boston told us not to engage with that man because he is a fraudster. They gave us evidence of people he had defrauded, including Kenyans and they were complaining. So we equally pulled out,” Otafiire said. Scoffing at Murinzi, he added: “Now, if I changed my mind, was that a crime? Let him write to the President. I am not scared.”
LAW FIRM INTERVENES
In an August 24, 2011 letter, Christopher Shannon of the US law offices wrote to Otafiire on behalf of Murinzi to discuss settling the dispute caused by the actions of Nayebare. The lawyer claimed that when Otafiire committed to invest $100,000 in CareRight Healthcare, he wired it from Uganda into Nayebare’s bank account in Boston on or about May 13, 2011. “It was the understanding of all parties that she would transfer those funds to CareRight’s account.
Unfortunately, Nayebare refused to transfer the funds to CareRight. At first, Murinzi and I attempted to resolve this dispute by negotiating with Nayebare. But she kept increasing her demands, and acting in an unreasonable manner…,” Shannon said.
Otafiire acknowledged in an interview with Sunday Vision that he sent the money to Nayebare but said he stopped her from giving it to Murinzi because he had discovered that he was a “thug”. “I am the one who stopped her because Ugandans in Boston had told me to be careful with him. I also found out that he was a mufere (conman).
He grabbed my wife’s car and held her at a ransom. He said he would not give the car to her until she agreed to give him the money ($100,000). The car had to be retrieved by the US police,” Otafiire said. He continued: “By the way, I don’t know that project (sh361b health insurance firm).
I have no information about what he is trying to do here. If he has written to the President, I will take him to court for being a thug.” By press time, we could not confirm whether the letter had been received by the President
Warrant of arrest
It has been reported that the Massachusetts police, in November 2015, issued three warrants of arrest for Murinzi over a slew of offences — one for assault and battery on a corrections officer, alleged theft of an MV vehicle and ‘Chapter 90 offences’.
Under Massachusetts legislation, Chapter 90 offences relate to breaches of the law pertaining to vehicles such as driving under the influence of alcohol or without a permit.
As a result of his run-in with the law, police in Waltham, a Boston suburb, put Murinzi on its “most wanted list,” — a fact which was captured by a local daily. Murinzi has denied the allegations.