The Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga (pictured) has asked the Ministry of Health to explain why no penny has been allocated to Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) despite Parliament allocating money to the institute to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Uganda.
Kadaga also tasked the Ministry to explain why UVRI has never received funding for the replacement of the Nitrogen Plant which broke down in 2017 and had not been repaired or replaced.
The breakdown of the Nitrogen Plant was highlighted in the 2019 Auditor General report that revealed that the Uganda Virus Institute has an approved structure of 237 positions, but only 88 positions were filled and 149 positions remained vacant as at the time of the audit in November 2019.
The Speaker’s directive followed a concern raised by James Waluswaka (Bunyole East) who asked the Speaker to prevail over the Ministry of Finance, demanding for explanation why the money was never sent to the Institute yet Parliament approved a Shs284Bn supplementary budget to fight the spread of COVID-19, with Shs119Bn allocated to the Ministry of Health.
“Last week, when we were interacting with UVRI and they gave us shocking news that they haven’t received a single penny from the Ministry of Health. He even said the nitrogen plant where they keep reagents and samples broke down three years back and at that time, the cost was Shs630M but up to now, the Ministry of Finance has given a deaf ear,” Waluswaka said.
While appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently, Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu Director of UVRI revealed that the government has never provided any funding towards its COVID -19 activities but all funding has come from donor community like World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Chinese tycoon Jack Ma Foundation.
Prof. Kaleebu told the Committee that due to the demand of the Virus Institute’s services in testing COVID-19 suspected cases, the institute has had to suspend all other activities for the 3rd and 4th quarters, while diverting Shs780M from other programs in order to fund COVID-19 activities.
The institute which hosts a regional referral lab on influenza has been the sole research and testing facility for COVID 19 in Uganda throughout the Pandemic.
Kaleebu said that although the Institute presented a budget of USD1.7Million to the Ministry of Health to go towards their COVID 19 related work, but that funding has never been availed.