Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have expressed concerns about the fraud in the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), describing the practice as another form of cancer eating up patients visiting the facility.
The MPs raised the concerns today while meeting officials from UCI that had been summoned to respond to audit queries raised in the 2016/2017 Auditor General’s report.
A scrutiny into the financial records exposed a number of loopholes into the Institute’s non-revenue collections from patients, which in most cases the Institute is failing to account for or remit the money collected from patients back to the treasury.
The MPs were left furious after officials from Institute failed to account for Shs1.77bn amidst claim that the Institute is underfunded.
The committee observed that the UCI officials spent Shs8.4bn beyond the Shs18.3bn released funds, leaving Shs10million expenditure unexplained.
The Institute is said to have requested a loan from the Treasury amounting to Shs1.8bn but only returned Shs1.4bn, leaving Shs40M unaccounted for, yet the officials failed to avail documents to back up their claim that the loan was paid to the bank.
The other amount in contention was Shs7.7M that remained in transit in 2015/2016; when the financial year started, the money was reflected on their account but it disappeared and the same occurred in 2016/2017, with Shs1.008M that remained in transit before closure of the financial year closed. The money was also on transit but disappeared.
The report also pointed out that tax payers are losing money to expired drugs purchased by the Cancer Institute, citing a general rule that requires that any item expiring in three months’ time is short dated and shouldn’t be purchased by any health facility.
However, auditors were shocked to discover that some slow moving items like praziquantel tables or items which are only available in large units according to Chapter 16 the management of medicines and health supplies manual March 2012.
The Auditors argued that this implies that items expiring in three months should neither be delivered nor accepted should neither be delivered nor accepted at any health facility. However, the inspection of the accountability of selected trace items revealed that 4 short dates items worth Shs50.367M expired during the year.
Jackson Orem, Executive Director, Uganda Cancer Institute however pushed blame to National Medical Stores, accusing the entity of holding onto drugs and only delivering the items towards date of their expiry.
He said that medicines for treatment of cancer are used in combinations of two or three and other times more and that most times, NMS would supply only one of the various drugs that are required yet such single agents could not be used on patients as they posed a risk to their lives.
“Because of the absence of other drugs, that should be utilised in the required combinations, the single agents supplied ended up expiring in our stores. An example here is lomustine and procarbazine that cost a lot of money however these two could not be sued without chlorambucil that we had not received in the proceeding 3 years. However, the drugs that were received in the UCI stores from NMS were not short dated. They only sat in the UCI stores until the expiry date for the reasons provided above,” he said.
Orem further admitted mishaps in the Cancer Institute’s and promised to clean up the rot in his entity remarking, “As a human being, there were errors, but we are going to realign the documents without tampering with the facts.”
Wilberforce Yaguma (Kashari County North) wondered why the Cancer Institute keeps on lamenting about the inadequate funding yet even the little money allocated to the Institute isn’t fully absorbed.
“I am concerned about cancer institute because like any Ugandan, I have lost people through cancer. It has taken over HIV/Aids but I am disturbed to discover that in the financial year Parliament gave billions of money to Cancer institute but the management of cancer institute failed to utilize the money,” Yaguma said.
He added: “For example, Shs3.3bn was sent to recruit health workers, doctors but Shs1.2bn was never used, meaning they never recruited people. Patients are sleeping in the open; there are no beds as such we are losing people to cancer. People now hate NRM Government that they aren’t producing resources to help cancer patients yet money is provided not utilized.”
PAC Chairperson, Nathan Nandala Mafabi asked the team to leave Parliament and return with proper accountability of their expenditure.