Uganda: Health Ministry Apologises for Mishaps in Global Fund

By Emmanuel Ainebyoona

Kampala - The Ministry of Health has explained discrepancies in the management of global funds and also apologised for mishaps raised by an audit report prepared by the Geneva-based Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The funds support the treatment and control of HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.

The results of an audit conducted in October last year, revealed that the ministry of Health, a recipient of the funds, had failed to play an oversight role through its senior management. As a result, this led to ineffective implementation of Global fund activities, including supply of expired HIV testing kits and drugs, unaccounted for expenses amounting to $3.9m, theft of 40 cartons of antimalarial medicines from Mulago Hospital, drug stock-outs of critical anti-retroviral drugs and inflated prices of antimalarial drugs.

"Anti-malarial medicines that were distributed under the private sector co-payment mechanism are sold at prices higher than that recommended that is Shs5, 000, instead of Shs3,500," the audit indicated in part. The report also cited low absorption of grant funds allocated to the Ministry of health, out of $20m allocated to the Ministry of Finance, only 46 per cent had been spent at the time of the audit.

While responding to the OIG findings recently, the health minister, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, said the $3.9m unaccounted for funds, out of the 20 grants implemented by his ministry since 2002 did not tantamount to a public outcry as portrayed in some sections of the media.

"...collective measures and recommendations are being taken to strengthen accountability,"Dr Tumwesigye said while addressing a media briefing that lasted over two hours at the ministry headquarters. "An audit comes from Geneva and the only accountability that is not sure is the $3.9m, really were need to be clapped for as government that you get over $300m but only $3.9m you don't supporting documents."

Ms Kate Kikule, of National Drug Authority said they had used a risk-based approach to test these medicines and the $3.8m had been used for the intended purpose. However, the same report indicated that although bed nets and condoms were tested, there was no proof that medicines had been tested.

On behalf of government, Dr Tumwesigye also apologised for the expired testing kits and drugs found at over 70 per cent of the 50 health facilities visited by the audit team. "We regret the expiry of medications and it is as a result of poor skills by the people managing the stores to project rightful amounts to be utilised by certain facilities."

The minister attributed low absorption of grant funds to stringent measures adopted to address corruption, the depreciating foreign exchange rate and the long bureaucratic procurement processes, while citing an example procuring condoms and food products. He told journalists that the drug stock-outs were mainly as a result of changes in the WHO HIV policy guidelines which have increased the number of patients eligible for treatment, leading to a funding gap of about $90m in 2016.

On expiry of drugs, the director general health services, Dr Jane Aceng, said that sometimes, tuberculosis drugs which are purchased by the Global drug Facility in Geneva come when their shelf life is one year or less.

Source: All Africa