The question of “Where did Covid-19 money go?”, remains unanswered

The question of “Where did Covid-19 money go?”, remains unanswered

IGG, Beti Kamya during the commemoration of African Anti-Corruption Day 2022 (Photo Courtesy of The Independent)

During the commemoration of the African Anti-Corruption Day held in Kampala yesterday (11th July) under the theme, Escalating the war on corruption in Africa, Focus on Covid-19 Funds, Inspector General of government, Beti Kamya in her remarks affirmed that the Inspectorate of Government is currently investigating at least 14 cases related to the mismanagement of over UGX 300 billion ($79 million) Covid-19 cash.

The African Anti-Corruption Day falls in the same month Ugandans remember the 42-day Covid-19 national lockdown which came into effect on June 10th, 2021 and went through the month of July. The question which many Ugandans are still asking is on the whereabouts of the Covid-19 money!

According to investigative Journalist, Solomon Sserwanja during financial year 2020/21, the 10th Parliament appropriated UGX 18.5 billion ($4.8 million) to procure Covid-19 vaccines. During the following financial year – 2021/22 following the lethal Delta variant, Parliament appropriated an additional UGX 560 billion ($147.5 million) to the Ministry of Health an additional UGX 80 billion ($21.1 million) to the National Medical Stores for procurement of vaccines.

SecretsKnown remembers that Uganda received over 42 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines of which over 90% were donated. So, what happened to the over UGX 658.5 billion ($173.4 million) that was appropriated to procure the Covid 19 vaccines? Where did the money go? Did anyone account to Ugandans?

Conversely, during the financial year of 2019/2020, Government of Uganda borrowed the tune of UGX 4.361 trillion ($1.148 billion) to deal with the adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy.

In June 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1 billion, three-year loan for Uganda to help the African nation recover from the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new aid provided $258 million immediately to help the government cover spending, this comes on top of an emergency loan of nearly $500 million last year, the International Monetary Fund said in a statement.

The pandemic upended years of progress in reducing poverty, but the Washington-based crisis lender noted a modest recovery underway even amid continuing uncertainty and risks to the outlook.

Under a multi-sectorial approach, ministries and government agencies were given financial war-chests to procure contracts through transparent methods, which was a conditionality to access credit from the Bretton Woods Institutions.

During the annual monitoring for the FY 2019/20, the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit (BMAU) undertook an assessment of the performance of the Health Sector in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in all treatment centers including, Mulago National Referral Hospital, Regional Referral Hospitals (RRHs), some general hospitals, and selected local governments.

The initial support totaled to UGX 25 billion ($6.6 million) from the GoU Emergency and Consolidated Funds to Ministry of Health (MoH) for emergency medical response towards the pandemic. In addition, the MoH received a supplementary budget of UGX 94.1 billion ($24.8 million) in response to the COVID Emergency Plan.

The Health ministry also received in-kind and cash contributions from the public, private sector, and development partners among others amounting to over $109,736,160.

Overall, the budget for the Multi-Sectoral Covid-19 Response (March 2020 to June 2021) was UGX 2.22 trillion ($584.8 million). By 30th June 2020, a total of UGX 766 billion ($201.8 million), was received and committed towards COVID-19 prevention and response interventions.

These funds included UGX 386,608,640,216 ($101.8 million) already disbursed by the GoU to the various sectors, on-budget support by development partners and contributions from individuals and private sector and individuals. This left a gap of UGX 1.45 trillion ($383.7 million).

Expenditure commitments were made as follows: Approximately 35% on supply chain management, 15% on health infrastructure, 12% on leadership, coordination and stewardship, 10% on community engagement and social protection, 7% on surveillance and laboratory, as well as logistics and operations respectively. The rest was spent on human resource, case management, and risk communication among others. Local Governments also got UGX 165 million ($43,673) while the RRHs received emergency health workers and UGX 270 million ($71,466) in response to Covid-19.

By 30th June 2020, the Health Ministry had received and spent a total of UGX 119 billion ($31.4 million). Development partners released another UGX 144.9 million ($38,353) as budget Support to the health sector.

But in a country where corruption is endemic, prima facie evidence is emerging that some of these Covid-19 interventions turned into a window for public officials to engage in a tangled web of false accounting, inflating costs, and peddling influence. 

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