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National Medical Stores under probe over US cash

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Cartons of drugs being off-loaded from a National Medical Stores truck in Gulu District recently. Many district health centres have complained of lack of drugs for patients. MONITOR PHOTO 

By Tabu Butagira

Posted  Friday, March 7  2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Seeks answers. USAID investigating the drug distributor over allegations of mismanaging Shs300b HIV project.

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Kampala.

The United States says it is investigating the National Medical Stores (NMS) over the suspected use of billions of shillings disbursed under a five-year project HIV testing kits and other laboratory supplies.
The agency is responsible for the procurement, storage and distribution of drugs and medical supplies to public health facilities. Its officials yesterday expressed “surprise” over reports of the ongoing probe.
The inquiries are being conducted by USAID, America’s overseas development agency, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, according to the US embassy in Kampala.

“We have been reviewing supply chain issues at the National Medical Stores. There is much information outstanding and until we have greater clarity on these issues we will be using alternative supply distribution systems,” the public affairs officer, Mr Daniel Travis, stated in an email reply on Wednesday.

“Right now we are not putting money into NMS. The matter is currently under investigation,” the email further reads.
The US is Uganda’s largest bilateral donor, offering $740million (nearly Shs1.8 trillion) annually with more than half for HIV/Aids programmes.
Under the “Purchase, Distribution and Tracking of HIV/Aids-related Laboratory supplies and Cotrimoxazole in Uganda under PEPFAR” project, Washington signed up to give NMS $12m (Shs300b) over five years beginning September 30, 2010.

A total $23m (Shs58.6 billion) has since been released, with the quota reducing each consecutive year until the 2013/14 Financial Year when only $100 (Shs250,000) of the approved $3.2m (Shs8b) was made available.
NMS spokesperson Dan Kimosho said allegations of mismanagement of the project are unfounded because USAID-deployed auditors who gave a clean bill of health to every stage of its execution.

“It is not true at all that NMS has ever misused money from either USAID or CDC. This allegation is very surprising,” he said.
Mr Kimosho said the funders informed NMS management that they were reducing allocations due to a bad economy at home, and not the irregular project administration.

The findings of the US agency investigations are expected within weeks.
Mr Kimosho said they suspect a US-funded organisation involved in Uganda’s healthcare filed malicious reports to discredit the drug distributor.
He said there would not be disruption in supply of the HIV testing kits and laboratory supplies if US withdrew funding.

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com