Ministry of Health Fails To Account For Shs42bn COVID-19 Funds
The Ministry of Health has failed to secure accountability for 42 billion Shillings that was allocated to different Local Governments in the past years for Covid-19, immunization, and other activities.
The revelation was made by Dr. Diana Atwine, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee- PAC Central Government. This followed a query by Auditor General John Muwanga regarding unaccounted-for Covid-19 funds by Regional Referral Hospitals in two financial years of 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.
Muwanga’s recent forensic investigation into the Covid-19 funds expended during the two financial years indicates that out of 4.485 billion Shillings transferred to Regional Referral Hospitals for management of covid-19 related activities, 614 million remained unaccounted for as of 30th June 2021 by various hospital management.
According to the forensic report, the Regional Referrals in question were given 270 million Shillings each and Mbarara did not account for 86.7 million, Moroto 112.07 million, Arua 1.79 million, Mbale 87.29 million, Fort Portal 108.4 million and Mubende 217.98 million Shillings.
“In my interview with Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health during the period under investigation, she confirmed that the above funds were indeed received by her Ministry. She further explained that obtaining accountability returns from Referral Hospitals and Local Governments has always been challenging. She explained that the Ministry later proposed to start advancing funds to Local Government staff through E-Cash payments and the respective beneficiary would account in person to the Ministry,” reads part of the forensic report.
In the report, Auditor General Muwanga recommended that the Accounting Officers of the affected hospitals should be held accountable for not accounting for the funds.
Section 10.21.11 of the Treasury Instructions (TI) provides that advances not accounted for within 60 days from the date of payment shall be deducted from the monthly salary of the officer who received the said funds. The instruction further states that no more advances should be made to anybody with unsettled advances.
Asked by Chairperson Medard Lubega Sseggona why the Ministry didn’t enforce accountability, James Oundo, the Assistant Commissioner Accounts said that at the time of the audit, some regional referral hospitals had not shared their accountability but some have since sent in the accountability.
He however hastened to add that the money has not been fully accounted for despite different letters written by the Permanent Secretary Dr. Atwine.
Dr. Atwine told the committee that she had written letters to the different accounting officers and even held meetings with them about the issue. Atwine added that she had also held a meeting with the Secretary to Treasury about the failed accountability.
Atwine noted that it was not only the Covid-19 funds that were not partly accounted for, but the Ministry was also having challenges to secure accountability for money sent to districts through GAVI, Global Fund, and other areas.
“It is a big problem with Local Governments. 42 billion Shillings is not accounted for, I pray that we enforce the accountability through the Secretary to Treasury and maybe this committee” Atwine said.
Eddie Kwizera, the Bukimbiri County MP wondered why the sanctions outlined in the law have not been enforced to ensure that the money is recovered.
Dr. Michael Bukenya, the Bukuya County MP expressed concern that the committee had earlier heard from the auditor of the Ministry confirming not being able to audit and the current confirmation from the Permanent Secretary about not being able to access accountability for funds.
Bukenya proposed that the committee comes up with a recommendation on the matter to help streamline accountability between the ministry, regional referral hospitals, and the Local Governments.
Sseggona said that the issue was majorly about the law that does not allow the Ministry a mechanism to enforce accountability.
“The Ministry only has a giving hand. We shall have an interface with the Secretary to Treasury,” said Sseggona.
He also directed the Ministry to provide the committee with a list of the Accounting Officers who have failed to account for funds, how much they have not accounted for, and how it arises. Sseggona said that the list should be with his committee by Tuesday so that the process of having the money recovered starts.