Ugandan patients are likely to miss out on drugs in public health facilities as high ranking government officials in the Ministry of Finance and National Medical Stores continue to fight.
In a statement issued on Monday, buy NMS said Ugandans should brace for tough times ahead as funds meant for medicine were yet to be released by the Finance Ministry.
“We wish to restate that if this money is not provided, price over and above the Budget for Financial Year 2017/18, all Health Centre IIs, IIIs and IVs, including those of UPDF, Uganda Police and Uganda Prisons, shall not receive Medicines in the Financial Year 17/18 except ARVs, Vaccines, ACTs and TB medicines,” reads the statement seen by ChimpReports.
Drama started unfolding in 2016 with Parliament approving a loan request of $200m from the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank) specifically for Health ($42.1m), Electricity ($2.8m) and Transport ($2.8m) sectors.
The facility had originally been brought to Parliament as exchange rate stabilization loan only to be rejected by MPs.
The Finance Ministry later returned it in form of loan request for procurement of medicines for NMS, electricity expansion, transport and exchange rate stabilization.
While documents indicate that PTA Bank released the loan basing on documents submitted by the agencies, it was never remitted to them in accordance with the agreed terms of the funding.
Governor Tumusiime Mutebile was recently quizzed by MPs on where the money was.
Mutebile told MPs that between October 20, 2016 and May 23, 2017; BOU received $97.9m from PTA bank and transferred all the money to the Ministry of Finance Consolidated Account as instructed by the Ministry of Finance.
“How it was used, is the ministry of finance to explain,” he said.
On his part, the Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi said the loan came in as “budget support and not as project support specifically meant for NMS.”
He further stated that during the budget process of 2016/17, Parliament “appropriated the money and we released all of its 100 percent to them.”
But NMS boss Moses Kamabare says the Finance Ministry is “economical with the truth”.
NMS said in the Financial Years 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2014/15, it suffered budget cuts totaling to Shs 36,447,251,373,
The non-release, in all the above cases, was in Quarter 4 when NMS would have already procured the Essential Medicines and Health Supplies (EMHS) for delivery to the Health Facilities.
It further said in the Financial Year 2015/16, there was severe Depreciation of the Uganda Shilling against the United States Dollar (USD).
“This diminished both the funds appropriated under Vote 116 for FY 2015/16 and sums carried over,” said NMS.
This was brought to the attention of Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance and NMS requested for a sum of Shs 68bn in FY 2015/16 to be able to cover the gap created by the Depreciation of the Uganda Shilling.
In response to the request, on November 30, Muhakanizi informed NMS that the Ministry of Finance had “initiated a Funding Facility, currently before Parliament for approval, which will be used to address this issue.”
This funding facility was the PTA Bank loan, which was later approved by Parliament on April 26, 2016.
NMS said the record on the Hansard clearly indicates Shs 68 bn required to avert an impending crisis at NMS as one of the primary reasons why the loan “should be urgently” approved.
NMS officials say if they were therefore not meant to get the Shs 68billion as additional funds, then the Ministry of Finance misled Parliament.
On May 10, 2016, after waiting for the funds in vain, NMS reminded Muhakanizi of the funding deficit of Shs 68 bn.
On June 6, 2016, Muhakanizi in his letter advised NMS that the Shs 68billion required would be available in FY 2016/17.
NMS said it had not received this money as promised.
On August 17, 2016, Muhakanizi in another letter to NMS stated that “Government had acquired a loan from the PTA Bank, which was ready for disbursement and requested NMS to submit Procurement Contracts for items in the Foreign Currency Requirements”.
NMS says it provided the contracts by a letter dated September 13, 2016, and waited for disbursement of the money from PTA Bank.
“However, the said funds have to-date not been provided. This fact was brought to the Ministry of Health and the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to the Treasury on 27th March 2017. It is important to note that the PTA Bank Loan, was approved by Parliament on the understanding that part of the Proceeds would go to NMS to cover the sh.68billion deficit,” said NMS.
This view is shared by MPs who approved the PTA loan.