The Minister of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng
MPs on Parliament’s Health Committee have protested the Shs2.7bn sought by the Ministry of Health to supervise construction works at the controversial Lubowa Specialized International Hospital, describing the project as dead that needs burial.
Charles Ayume (Koboko Municipality), who also doubles as Chairperson Health Committee, made the remarks in response to the request by the Minister of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng seeking the approval of another supplementary budget to a tune of Shs31.8Bn, part of which include Shs2.7Bn for supervision of works at Lubowa Hospital.
“I think to me Lubowa is brain dead, we just have to plug off, switch off the life support and we escort it to the mortuary. It is in a vegetative state, can we turn off the life support machine, but the problem is, who is going to bell the cat and tell us, now switch off, but I think it can only be the Ministers,” Ayume said.
Documents before Parliament indicate that the Ministry of Health is seeking Shs8bn to pay the outstanding allowances for Covid-19 staff, another Shs11.5Bn as payment for court awards to Sino Africa medicines, Shs6Bn for the mentainance of oxygen plants, as well as Shs3.6Bn for counterpart funding for Busolwe general hospital and Shs2.7Bn for supervision of international specialized hospital Lubowa.
However, the MPs led by Hope Grania Nakazibwe (Mubende DWR) queried how the Shs2.7Bn will be spent yet there is no constriction taking place at the site.
She said, “Whenever the community outside hears anything to do with Lubowa, it becomes very hot out there. I really wonder what the Shs2.7Bn is going to be used for if the activity that has come out is just supervision. Someone would wonder how much supervision is happening, without anything to do with construction.”
Nicholas Kamara (Kabale Municipality) wondered how lonmg taxpayers money will be sunk in Lubowa project with no tangible results arguing, “We have never got a status report about Lubowa, so where is the supervision coming from? Us as health committee, unless I wasn’t around, I don’t know what is taking place at Lubowa. The last time we were there, we didn’t find anything taking place.
He added, “What are you going to supervise that requires Shs2.7Bn. who is going to supervise, what is this money going to do? Are you the real supervisors anyway because the last time we went with you, you all looked as lost as we were. Everyone knows that this is a white elephant where we are just putting money, we are putting taxpayers money every year, but nothing is taking place.”
George Otim, Commissioner for Health Infrastructure-Ministry of Health informed MPs that under normal circumstances the supervision of project would cost around Shs50bn and noted that the request is to enable engineers from the ministry of health and works to supervise the ongoing works.
He said, “The consultancy services are between 7-10% of the value of the works that would cost about Shs50Bn. A discussion was held and the Ministry agreed that since Shs50Bn would be hard to get, a team of engineers will be recruited to supervise these works. They are supposed to be a team of 8engineers of different areas; mechanical, civil, electrical, architectural, biomedical and other support staff totaling to 10.”
Otim added that the Shs2.7Bn will be partly used to procure equipment, some tools and transport equipment and the project will require three levels of supervision like the project steering committee which is in place, and these aren’t paid salaries but allowances and the other funds will go towards purchase of refreshments.
“The Shs2.7Bn is for the initial year, but in the next year it reduces to about Shs1.7Bn. This project stalled for one year, it only resumed last year. The original sub-contractor left the site and a new subcontractor was procured and the site is fully moblised and the new contractor is the one that constructed the Norther By-pass and has started construction. As far as my observation they have moblised fully and you can see a site where work is starting,” added Otim.
According to information fro of Finance, Enrica Pinetti, the developer of Lubowa Hospital has already been advanced Shs348Bn between 2021 and 2022 and Government is requesting for additional Shs319Bn in the 2022/2023 current national budget, a request that Parliament rejected.
It should be recalled that in March 2019, Parliament approved the request by the Ministry of Finance to issue promissory notes for the construction of a specialised hospital in Lubowa through the issuance of a promissory notes to a tune of USD379.71m approximately Shs1.393Trn.
In its glossy proposal, Government said the facility would be constructed on 32hectares in Lubowa in Wakiso district and would be divided in four zones including; clinical, education, recreation and housing zones.
The hospital was meant to carry 54 Oncology beds, 27 infectious disease beds, 27 medical beds, 16VIP beds, eight ICU beds, as well as 60 outpatient beds, 54 surgery beds, 27 paediatrics beds, 27OBGYN beds, 16 intensive Care, 8 neo-natal ICU beds and 11 operating theaters.
Enrica Pinetti is the proprietor of the hospital and had promised to construct the hospital in two years, and later run the hospital for six years before the hospital reverts back to Government.
However, three years down the road, the project is yet to take off, with Government keeping silent on the progress.