Amidst the controversy over financial impropriety leveled against the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Dr. Monica Musenero (pictured), scientists want the government to always put a caveat on proper channels through, which funds flow once scientists are appointed to positions of authority.
Dr. Samuel Oledo, the President of Uganda Medical Association (UMA) told our reporter in an interview that scientists don’t get any financial literacy training, which makes it challenging for them to follow through and make proper accountability when assigned such roles.
Oledo, who proposes that the government considers providing financial literacy lessons or assigning finance controllers to innovators benefiting from government funding, notes that while some have good innovations such as Pharmacist, Prof. Patrick Ogwang who came up with COVIDEX, their innovations suffer when they get entangled in mismanagement woes.
According to the doctor, Musenero who has lately been on the spot overutilization of billions of funds extended towards the development of the COVID-19 vaccine could have been a victim of because of financial incompetence.
Musenero has since been interrogated by parliament and faces further interrogations by the Inspectorate of Government for unaccounted for money while she was still in charge of the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE) as the Presidential Advisor on Epidemics. The investigations were triggered by complaints of financial impropriety raised by Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi.
The parliamentary select committee set up to investigate the issue established that when President Museveni directed that PRESIDE be set up, the government released Shillings2 billion to facilitate its operations.
The committee also notes that 5.3 billion was provided in the financial year 2019/2020 budget and 31.03 billion provided in 2020/2021 for scientists under PRESIDE for procurement of equipment and project operational costs.
An additional Shillings 25 billion was released for project operations, a supplementary request of Shillings 50.4 billion for a manufacturing plant, and Shillings 27 billion for additional operational funds for PRESIDE projects in the financial year 2021/2022.
The committee also observed that poor financial management resulted in the failed accountability of Shillings 2.06 billion under operational funds in addition to another Shs1.4 billion for PRESIDE staff. Doctors say this was too much for the scientist to handle and a lot of unrealistic promises were made.
For instance, Dr. Misaki Wayengera, a virologist based at Makerere University, says the developers of the homegrown COVID-19 vaccine gave Ugandans false hope when they set timelines yet research and development are unpredictable.
On his part, Kenneth Mwehonge, the Executive Director of local NGO Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPs) Uganda commented that it’s quite unfortunate that processes are now being halted in the very early stages of vaccine research in the country.
For him, political interference towards scientific innovations the world over has slowed the translation of research into usable innovations.