Ministers used GF money on campaigns

Monday September 24 2007

By JUDE LUGGYA

THREE ministers, in the health ministry "borrowed" Shs7.1 million from Global Funds monies to carry out referendum campaigns on the change of political systems, last year.

The three are Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi, the overall minister, Capt. Mike Mukula, incharge of General Duties, and Dr Alex Kamugisha who is in charge of Primary Health. The latter two are ministers of state.
Dr John Bosco Rwakimaari, the programme manager of the Malaria Control Programme in the Ministry of Health who made the disclosure was on Friday appearing before the Judicial probe into the misuse of the $201 million grant to fight Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.

He said that the money was part of the Shs2.39 billion, which his programme got from the Project Management Unit of the Global Fund to fight malaria.
The commission was chaired by Justice James Ogoola "My lord, I was requested by my superior, the permanent secretary (Mr Mohammed Kezaala) to lend the money to the three ministers to facilitate their campaigns in the referendum, this was around July last year" Rwakimaari told the probe team.

The referendum was held on July 28, 2005. "However, the money has since been re-paid," he said. "Do you have a bank statement to show that this money was paid back?" Ogoola asked.

"The permanent secretary and the under secretary have told me that the money was paid back. I'm yet to get the bank statement," he said.

Ogoola countered thus: "What if a malaria epidemic hit during the time this money was borrowed? Did it in anyway fetch any interest? This expenditure was outside the budget you presented to PMU when you were applying for the money. You are the programme manager and you must be accountable," Ogoola said.

"Do you now agree with people who have accused government officials of using GF money for political mobilisation and campaigns?" he asked further.

Last year, before the Geneva based GF briefly suspended its grants to Uganda, Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, an Aids activist and an official of the opposition FDC party , revealed to the world at a press conference in Kampala, that government officials were using GF money for political campaigns. Government vehemently denied the accusation as empty talk.

The Commissioners were appaled when they landed on vouchers and receipts indicating that Daniel Kalule, an aide to minister Kamugisha, got Shs10 million to go to Rukungiri to carry out malaria sensitisation workshops last year.

"How could a personal assistant sensitise people on malaria? What qualifications and expertise does he have in this area? You only gave Kalule this money to pass it on to his boss because not even the minister is expected to carry out such work," Commissioner Dr Margaret Mungherera said.

Rwakimaari's response was that MCP has been understaffed for long, employing only seven technical personnel, which on many occasions forces them to take on staff from other departments to carry out various assignments.

Rwakimaari also told the Commission that during the African Malaria Week , last year, 70 Members of Parliament received a total of Shs18 million as per diem and fuel allowances to travel to their districts to commemorate the day.

 

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