Wednesday September 26 2012

Bribery claims rock health budget crisis

By Sheila Naturinda, Mercy Nalugo & Yasiin Mugerwa

Several ruling party MPs yesterday went back on their vow to ensure Shs260 billion to fix the health sector was included in the Budget, an apparent change of heart some of their colleagues said was secured through suspected bribery.

Before Parliament approved the government motion to provide Shs49.5 billion instead of Shs260 billion for health sector, NRM MPs Barnabas Tinkasiimire, (Buyaga), Theodore Ssekikubo, (Lwemiyaga County), Wilfred Niwagaba, (Ndorwa East) and Cerina Nebanda (Butaleja) accused their colleagues of pocketing fat allowances to block the health budget proposal.

“Museveni was giving them allowances and told them that they should pass the budget the way it is. This is corruption. If they accept to back the government position, they will be cerebrating death,” Ms Nebanda said at Parliament.

NRM MPs led by Hatwib Katoto later in the afternoon said colleagues who were pushing for more money were plotting to a coup. Mr Tinkasiimire said: “We have learnt that about 40 MPs met the President on Friday, 40 others met him on Saturday and the rest met the First Lady on Monday and when they left, they started speaking different tongues.”

Although Ministry of Health had tabled a request of Shs260b needed to motivate and recruit more health workers, Dr Christine Ondoa, the minister for health yesterday reduced the need to only Shs49.5b.

Prime Minister Mbabazi also presented a statement in which he told the House that the government had identified Shs49.5 b instead of Shs39.2b and that the doctors’ salaries will be increased from Shs1.2b to Shs2.5b from October.

Mr Mbabazi said Shs6.5b will be available to health through budget cuts as seed money and that the Shs43b balance will be a supplementary. He said 6,172 health workers will be recruited this financial year and that he had asked the ministries of health and public service to provide a work plan within one a month.

The Budget Committee Chairperson, Tim Lwanga whom members accused of being compromised did not bring any report to the House— technically blocking the presentation of a minority report by Aruu MP Odonga Otto, rejecting the new position on the standoff that had held up the budget for weeks. Mr Lwanga: “This is not a new debate. We met the government, discussed and agreed with the minister’s position.”

Earlier, Mr Lwanga ejected journalists and civil society from the Budget Committee meeting with the Prime Minister and other ministers.