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Finance asks for accountability for COVI-19 funds

By Mary Karugaba

Added 18th September 2020 09:12 PM

Muhakanizi said the demand for accountability follows a request by the health ministry for additional funds to be used in the fight against the pandemic.

Finance asks for accountability for COVI-19 funds

Board chairperson of Absa Bank Uganda Nadine Byarugaba (centre), handing over a dummy cheque for sh100m to Atwine (right) to aid in the emergency response towards the COVID-19 pandemic at the Ministry of Health offi ces in April.

Muhakanizi said the demand for accountability follows a request by the health ministry for additional funds to be used in the fight against the pandemic.

HEALTH   VIRUS   RELIEF FUNDS

KAMPALA - The Ministry of Health and the Office of the Prime Minister have been asked to account for all the COVID-19 funds that they received as cash and donations. 

During the meeting conducted on zoom, the finance ministry permanent secretary, Keith Muhakanizi, told Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee yesterday that he has written to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, Diana Atwine, asking for accountability for all the monies received from the Government and donations, before more money is released.

Muhakanizi said the demand for accountability follows a request by the health ministry for additional funds to be used in the fight against the pandemic.

He said the ministry also wants to know whether there was value for the funds that had so far been released.

For ease of accountability of the funds, Muhakanizi has directed all accounting officers to ensure that money and donations for COVID-19 go through the Consolidated Fund account.

In April, Parliament approved a supplementary budget of sh284b to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The supplementary budget is in addition to billions of monies that were given by development partners.

Last month, the National Response Fund chairperson, Emmanuel Katongole, told New Vision the team had received sh54b in cash and in kind. 

Katongole said the team plans to use the money to purchase a pick-up and an ambulance for each district, build nine border entry holding centres and construct a blood bank for Soroti Hospital.

Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi, who chaired the meeting, asked Muhakanizi to explain whether the ministry had released all the funds that were appropriated by Parliament, particularly the sh89b meant for procuring 44.5million face masks.

He said they had received reports that many districts had not received any masks while others were selling them to the citizens.

"As a custodian of the resources, what measures have you put in place to ensure that COVID-19 funds are properly utilised? I have just returned from Karamoja and they don't have masks. In Moroto, Ifound some masks written on government of Uganda being sold in shops at sh3,000 each.

We are also hearing a lot of stories on these funds," Mafabi said.

Muhakanizi confirmed the release of the money but said the issue of procurement was within the powers of the Ministry of Health.

The MPs said given the huge amount of money involved, the Auditor General should carry out an audit, to establish whether the funds are being put to proper use.

"We can have a report immediately so that we address some of the challenges before the next release," Mafabi proposed. Last month, Mulago National Referral Hospital executive director Dr Baterana Byarugaba told MPs that since the outbreak of the disease, the hospital has not received any money for COVID-19-related activity from the health ministry.

Mafabi asked finance whether COVID-19 funds were released to the health ministry based on the work and procurement plan.

Deputy Auditor-General Keto Nyapendi informed the meeting that the auditors are already engaging finance and the Office of the Prime Minister and that they will soon present a report.

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