News & Up­dates:

Parliament has tasked the Auditor General to fast-track a forensic audit into all Covid19 related expenses made by the Government including management of private donations.

The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among also directed the relevant Committees to follow up on the issues raised by the Parliamentary Covid19 task force and ensure that corrective actions are taken.

The directives follow a response by the Minister of Health Jane Ruth Achieng on issues raised in the Report of the Parliamentary Task Force on Covid19 chaired by the MP Bugweri County, Abdul Katuntu.

The task force report was adopted by Parliament on September 1, 2021.

The Minister disclosed that during the financial year 2019/20, they received the supplementary budget allocation of UGX 96.744bn for various Covid19 response activities.

She said that by the closure of the FY 2019/20, UGX 94.799bn had been spent on various activities and the unspent balance of UGX 1.944bn was returned to the consolidated fund.

On the queries of Masks, Achieng confirmed that it is indeed true that the Ministry of Health spent UGX 90.9bn to procure a total of 37,916,250 masks and pointed out that the observed shortfall of 1,214,202 masks was due to additional masks distributed to Districts due to discrepancies in the projected population figures from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

Concerning the query on the Budget for Covid19 Resurgence Plan, the Minister acknowledged the recommendation by the Taskforce and committed to work with the Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders to harmonize and come up with a realistic Covidl9 Plan.

On the Performance of the Covid19 Vaccination drive, Achieng told Parliament that the Government of Uganda’s strategy is mass vaccination of the eligible population (22 million representing 49.8%) as a means of optimal control of the pandemic and full opening up of the economy.  The eligible populations are all those 18 years and above.

“In regard to the inadequacy of test kits, the Ministry has distributed Antigen Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) to all health facilities up to Health Centres III to test all suspected and symptomatic cases. The RDTs are distributed by National Medical Stores and the health facilities are encouraged to requisition whenever they require additional supplies,” said Achieng.

Under Rule 1 (1, 2 &3) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, Deputy Speaker Anita Among constituted a Parliament Task Force on the National Covid19 Response to Inquire into and report on Government’s preparedness and response to Covid19, provide an assessment of the health impacts of CovidI9 in the Community and country at large and assess operation, administration and management of funds and other resources appropriated for them to manage the pandemic.

Additionally, the committee was to assess the role of private sector health care providers in Covid19 management, carry out field visits to assess the state of the healthcare system in the Regional Referral Hospitals, both selected General Hospitals and the lower health facilities, conduct sensitization and awareness programs on mass media to educate the population, and prepare and submit a report to Parliament.

Katuntu thanked the Government for receiving the reports positively and urged it to further look into the reports and implement the recommendations for better service delivery.

“We did not embark on this assignment to find faults. We embarked on this assignment to look for solutions. Whatever we did and found we made sure that we gave recommendations. We had no reason to exaggerate or misreport the findings,” said Katuntu.

He however, was concerned to learn that many ICUs are not functional. He wondered why they are not functional. It is not because there is no staff to work in these ICUs?

“Some of the ICUs are not operational; some that were bought are rather functioning as HDUs. These ICUs are not operational because there are no specialists. In the whole of Northern Uganda, there is only one facility with a CT scan, imagine someone gets an accident,” he added.

Nyabushozi county MP, Wilson Kajwengye demanded that the Minister of Health provide an elaborate strategy for the mass vaccination. He noted that vaccination is the only hope at the moment.

“The country is set to receive 27m doses next month. How ready are we to roll out this vaccination exercise?” asked Kajwengye.

Shadow Health Minister Timothy Batuwa urged the members to check the World Health Organization (WHO) site for a comparative study of how African countries are handling the fight against Covid19.

He said that Uganda is only doing better than Zimbabwe and Tanzania. He called for the opening up of the discussions in management of the Covid19.

Nebbi Woman MP, Acibu Agnes requested the Government to extend financial assistance to other health facilities handling Covid19 patients because sometimes the regional referral hospitals are overwhelmed and these private facilities come in to help.

Among implored the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health to work together to ensure that the health sector is adequately funded and to avoid unnecessary cuts.

“We also need to be more foresighted in our planning and budgeting processes,” said Among.