MPs cleared to inspect Lubowa hospital site  

Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi (right) in a bitter exchange with a police officer outside Lubowa International Specialised Hospital project in Wakiso District on February 26, 2024. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • In February, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, together with other lawmakers were denied access to the site. 

The Permanent Secretary (PS) to the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine,  has given Members of Parliament the green light to visit the controversial Lubowa International Specialised Hospital on Entebbe Road near Kampala City.

This came after Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - Central ordered her to secure the clearance from  all concerned authorities.
“Madam PS on Monday, liaise with whatever authority [because] it is not duty [but you have] to ensure that this committee does a physical inspection of Lubowa,” said Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, the PAC committee chairperson.
“It was agreed you are an oversight entity and therefore, welcome to inspect,” Dr Atwine said, confirming that her team “shall be there” on-site to lead the inspection team.

Parliament in 2019 approved a Shs1.3 trillion loan (about 379.7m) to a private investor to finance the construction of a specialised hospital in Lubowa, Wakiso District, sparking controversy over inconsistencies in the cost of financing of the hospital, among other issues. Entry to the hospital is also restricted. 

The inspection slated for Monday at about 9 am is meant to enable the committee to take its own decision on whether to task the Criminal Investigations Department of Police to interrogate, among others, claims that a loss of Shs286 billion was made after the said amount was paid for works not commensurate to the said money.

This was after the MPs quizzed the Commissioner of Health Infrastructure at the Ministry of Health, Mr George Otim, who is blamed for having directly signed documents okaying the release of the money that has been termed as a loss.
The dicey discussion on the contagious hospital project returned to the fore after Dr Atwine in her opening remarks reported that works at the said site are ongoing.

“We are still following up on the issue of Lubowa. The pace was very slow [and] we were equally concerned like you but we have been informed that of late, the construction has started,” she told MPs.

She added: “We have not been there yet but we hope that this is something that you will interest yourself in and we see that this project is completed and we can provide the services that we need.”
However, the committee that was interrogating the Ministry of Health on audit queries raised in the Auditor General Report for the Financial Year 2022/2023 seemed surprised that works were ongoing.

While referring to findings of the Auditor General report, the committee was notified by the Ministry that it was found that a payment of $57 million was commensurate to the 23 percent work done at the site, while the other $76 Million [about Shs286 billion] was paid in excess.

The Ministry of Health faces criticism for approving milestone certificates based solely on reports from the contractor’s engineer without conducting physical inspections to verify the progress on site before authorising payments.

“However, I established through a minute dated January 11, 2022 that at the time, the owner’s engineer had certified only 23 percent of the completed works valued at $57,477,000 causing possible overpayment of $76, 088,208.28, approximately Shs286 billion,” Mr Hebert Tayebwa, the Kashongi County MP, said as he read out part of the findings by the Auditor General to the Ministry officials.

These assertions were, however, refuted by Mr Otim when he said: “I had full access to Lubowa site and I am disputing the assertion by the Auditor general. I am not aware of any overpayment, I paid for works implemented.”

This, however, seemed to have angered the committee that eventually forced Mr Kivumbi to have Mr Otim make submissions under oath. Mr Otim still insisted that his signature cleared for the release of money for work that had been done at the site.
Considering that the committee received mixed responses on the matter, Dr Atwine was tasked to secure clearance.

“I am going to ask the PS [ Dr Atwine] that on Monday, this committee accompanies you [as you lead] us to the Lubowa site to go and see the progress physically. We will not depend on any [other] reports. I want you to organise for this committee to proceed and inspect Lubowa,” Mr Kivumbi said.

In February, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, together with other lawmakers were denied access to the site. 

In the same week, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, ordered her deputy, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, to visit, inspect the site, and report back to Parliament on the same. Mr Tayebwa, however, did not visit the site and no formal communication on the same was ever been made again on the same by Parliament.