The government on Wednesday placed before Parliament yet another Shs1.09 trillion supplementary the budget for the Financial Year 2019/2020 of to intensify the fight against coronavirus.
Despite calls by some legislators that the request for additional funding be catered for in the revised budget for the Financial Year 2020/2021 since this financial year is at its tail end, Finance ministry officials argued that the funds will be obtained from the ongoing borrowing from the World Bank. They are pushing for the supplementary funding to be approved.
In May, the World Bank made available to Uganda $48m (Shs177.8b).
Under last week’s request, the Ministry of Health is being considered to receive Shs89b, that of Finance Shs505.18b, Trade (Shs100b), Science and Technology (Shs17.18b), while Shs223b goes towards the clearance of domestic arrears.
Prior to the latest request, Parliament, on April 8, approved a supplementary budget of Shs923b, out of which Shs284b was allocated to activities under the emergency response to Covid-19.
The activities were to be implemented through the Ministry of Health, and security agencies such as the police and Prisons, Local Governments, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, which is under the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
The budget of the Ministry of Health was enhanced with Shs104.188b, out of which Shs82.562b was meant to cater for the recruitment of 250 additional healthcare personnel; meet the cost of transportation and accommodation of staff; meet the welfare requirements for healthcare staff and patients; accommodation and welfare for patients under quarantine; and provide protective gear, including face masks, gloves and sanitisers.
The money was also meant to cater for the provision of test kits, increase the number of intensive care beds and help with the restoration of oxygen facilities at Mulago and other referral hospitals across the country.
Parliament also made available to the ministry a development budget of Shs5.4b to cater for the purchase of, among other things, 389 ambulances and beds for intensive care units.
It was not possible to talk to the minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng or the director of General of Health Services, Dr Henry Mwebesa, for this article, as they were said to be held up in a meeting for most of Friday.
However, according to a document that the Ministry of Health recently submitted to the Global Fund as a prerequisite for securing a grant aimed at helping in the fight against the spread of Covid-19, the ministry had, as of the end of May, spent $172.637m (about Shs640b).
Out of that, government availed $32.674m (about Shs121b), which was spent on procurement of beds and accessories, procurement of equipment for Intensive Care Units, procurement of civil infrastructure and energy equipment, and procurement and installation of oxygen plants.
Others on which government spent money include provision of meals for health workers and those in isolation, provision of accommodation and meals for quarantined persons, and transfers to regional referral hospitals.
However, some of the planned activities, including the planned procurement of chemistry reagents, hematology reagents, uniforms for staff and blood donor recruitment and collection drives, remain unfunded priorities.
The initial plan had been to deploy a significant number of members of the security forces and Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel to help with surveillance, case detection and enforcement of control measures.
Most of the other agencies, especially the police and the army, remain visible, but the same cannot be said of the Uganda Prisons department.
Mr Frank Baine, the Prisons spokesperson, however, says it was very visible, especially in the area of food distribution and used its share of the allocation to put in place several interventions to curb the spread of the virus in the prisons.
“We have isolation centres and washing points and we had to purchase so many things, including masks and sanitisers, most of which had not even been in our budget. In fact, what we were allocated was much less than what we needed. We had asked for Shs10b, but we were allocated only Shs4b,” Mr Baine says.
District taskforces headed by Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) were formed to carry out surveillance, case management, resource mobilisation and promotion of health. The budget to those was just slightly under Shs36.2b.
The chairperson of the National Covid-19 Taskforce, Mr Emmanuel Katongole, says the districts have done a commendable job.
“I think this was so much about a country coming together, with people in different locations of the country putting in a shift. The performance of the district forces has been quite commendable,” Mr Katongole says.
Mr Katongole further says that his taskforce has so far raised Shs33b in cash and 70 vehicles.
“The money is still intact, not even a Shilling has been touched. The President is guiding us on how it is going to be used. He thinks it should be used for tangible things such as washrooms, restaurants, or health facilities around the eight border crossings. He says we should also consider construction of blood banks in those districts that do not have them. The vehicles will go to districts that do not have them,” Mr Katongole told Sunday Monitor on Friday.
KCCA was provided with Shs30.181b to cover activities, including surveillance, capacity building among its staff, and enforcement of control measures in the wider Kampala population.
The Minister of State for Kampala, Ms Benna Namugwanya, says although what had been considered for allocation to KCCA had been Shs30.18b, the Authority ended up with only Shs1b at its disposal.
“When the [KCCA] executive director went to Parliament to present, it was agreed that all the health-related activities such as response and case management be moved to the Ministry of Health along with their budgets,” Mr Namugwanya explains.
Government had planned to distribute relief food items to at least two million vulnerable people in Kampala, Wakiso and parts of Mukono districts, an activity which was earmarked to take up Shs59.4b, as per the table below.
The food distribution exercise came to a close, but some of the vulnerable people missed out and some of those who got the items have been complaining about both the quality and quantity.
The Ministry of Information, Communication, Technology and National Guidance, was earmarked to receive Shs14.72b meant to cover activities, including dissemination of information about the pandemic, but the Permanent Secretary, Mr Vincent Bagiire, says the ministry received within the region of Shs6b, which he says has been used properly.
“Our only task was to transfer money to the media, mainly television stations, FM radio stations and some Internet websites.
The activity began in April and ends at the end of this month [June],” Mr Bagiire says.
It should, however, he noted that the Ministry of Health lists airing of radio and television talk shows as some of the unfunded priorities.
It should also be noted that the proposal to put out billboards in strategic locations, which was at the centre of debate given the huge sums of money that had been lined up for spending and the timing of activity during a lockdown, was never implemented.
Save for the security organisations and the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, all the other agencies, including the Ministry of Health, never received what had been allocated to them in the supplementary budget of April, which has raised quite a number of eyebrows, but the director of Budget in the Ministry of Finance, Mr Kenneth Mugambe, says no eyebrows should be raised.
“A budget is an estimate of expenditure. Actual expenditure is subject to revenue collection. The only money that can be stolen is that which has been released. The other remains mere entry on a paper,” Mr Mugambe explains.
Mr Musa Ecweru, the State Minister for Disaster Preparedness, says although government had received the money as planned, the ministry ran short of resources before all the vulnerable people could receive the food.
“We ended up distributing food to 1.8 million people. The funds got finished before we could cover most parts of Wakiso, but the next phase is aimed at distributing relief food in more than 40 districts where public transport has not yet been allowed to resume operations and in the slums of major towns,” Mr Ecweru said.