Thursday August 21 2014

Ministry of Health officials queried on Shs26b expenditures

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Ministry of Health officials were on Tuesday grilled over the whereabouts of Shs26billion meant for various activities in the ministry.

The Public Accounts Committee chaired by Ms Alice Alaso heard that half of the money in question (Shs13b) was diverted to pay consolidated allowances, Easter packages, travel abroad and workshops.
The ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Asuman Lukwago explained that part of the funds was paid to facilitate top management officials to attend important international meetings abroad, an item which was inadequately provided for.

“These activities cannot be ignored because they form part of negotiations that result in major funding to the ministry,” Dr Lukwago said.

Dr Lukwago, who was grilled by the members over the mischarge, however, explained to the committee that the mischarge was inevitable insisting that in the financial year 2014/15, out of the Shs582billion, the funding to the ministry, only Shs54billion (about 9.3 per cent) is from government.

“It is therefore critical for mobilization of resources that senior management has to travel. It is also been necessary to uplift the moral of staff specially the lower cadres through payment of consolidation allowances.”

The Committee also heard that Shs13b meant for ministry activities in the 2013/14 financial year, remained unaccounted for. Part of the unaccounted for funds (Shs2.4billion) was meant for the recruitment of health workers.

However, the PS explained that at the time of audit, the funds were unaccounted for either due to on-going activities or misfiling of the accountability documents. He said the officials who received the money have since accounted for the money and that the accountability documents were available for verification by the auditors.

Regarding the unaccounted for funds (Shs799.6million) meant for nodding disease emergency response in northern Uganda, Dr Lukwago explained that an inter-ministerial emergency management committee was set up to respond to the scourge. ‘The committee directed that the funds released by Ministry of Finance be given to line ministries to implement the response plan according to their mandate,” Dr Lukwago said.

He said Ministry of Health signed Memorandum of Understanding with the ministries, adding that in spite of the numerous reminders, the ministries have not accounted for the funds.

The ministries that took the money for nodding syndrome victims but have not yet provided the accountability are; Office of the Prime Minister (Shs600million), Gender ministry (Shs100m) and Ministry of Agriculture (Shs100m). While officials from OPM and Gender promised to get back to this newspaper today, by press time, ministry of Agriculture officials were not available for a comment.