Uganda: Urgent call; civil society organizations demand accountability for outrageous government spending

CSO Press Statement; Kampala, Uganda.
Civil Society Organisations working in health condemn the outrageous passage by Parliament on Wednesday April 27 2011 of a Uganda Shs1.5 trillion supplementary budget.

This money was allocated as a retroactive authorization for payments already made for fighter jets and unspecified military equipment, without permission of Parliament, as well as the President’s May 12 swearing-in ceremony. The Speaker of Parliament refused to allow a motion by the opposition that would have reduced the expenditure for the swearing in ceremony, and would have halted the expenditure for military equipment. To add insult to injury, the government has cut Shs2billion from the health budget to refund the billions of stolen GAVI funds (Daily Monitor 18th April, 2011). A source from Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) has confirmed that these funds have already been disbursed to GAVI.

In 2004, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) allocated over $4.3 million to be used as a vaccine stabilization fund to immunize children in Uganda. The former State health ministers Jim Muhwezi, Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha and State House aide Alice Kaboyo were implicated for mismanaging these GAVI funds. The GAVI Alliance suspended the Immunization Systems Strengthening (ISS) cash transfers in Mid-2006 following the alleged mismanagement of the funds by the said officials. The GAVI Alliance Boards insisted that the Government of Uganda reimburse GAVI for the missing funds. The Board also requested the Government of Uganda to establish measures to avoid similar cases in future, before they could approve any possible resumption of cash transfers to Uganda.  This has not happened—prosecution of the accused has been delayed for years—and instead the Ministry of Health has taken money from the health budget to reimburse the stolen funds.
 
 “Our families and communities have no security—they are suffering and dying without the medicine they need. Cutting the health budget and purchasing fighter Jets will not protect them when they are dying without access to HIV treatment or dying in childbirth, because of hemorrhage. This Administration and Parliament have decided that we must spend almost twice the annual allocation for entire health budget on useless military equipment. There is no doubt—this decision will result in more death and sickness of ordinary Ugandans,” said Dr. Sandra Kiapi, the Executive Director of Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA).
 
Additional reports indicate that recent sales of oil fields between the companies Tullow, Total and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) have generated more than $400 million in tax revenue, which could have been used to expand investments in medicines and health workers. “The Government claims resources are too scarce to invest in poor, sick, and dying people. This outrageous decision by Parliament reveals that the claim is a lie. The resources are available, it is the Government that refuses to keep its promises and invest in the people,” said Suleiman Bateganya of the Nurses and Midwives Union.
 
The civil society organisations noted that there is currently a petition before Constitutional Court, Number 16 of 2011, which alleges that government non provision of essential maternal health services constitutes a violation of the right to health and the right to life. “We are fed up with wasteful expenditures by government of our precious public resources, when they should instead keep their promises, and close the funding gap that causes pregnant women to die without the minimum package of essential maternal health care,” said Moses Mulumba of Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD)
 
Parliament’s passage of the supplementary budget comes at the same time the fiscal year 2011-2012 Budget Framework Paper from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) proposes flat-funding for the Ministry of health including in critical areas where, without increased investments, unnecessary deaths of Ugandans will increase. These priority areas that will receive no increase include: deployment and remuneration of health workers and for equipping lower level health facilities with commodities and personnel needed to perform essential functions. Early reports of the supplemental budget indicated that the President had already spent the money without requesting authorization from Parliament, making the expenditure illegal.
 
CSOs Health Experts calls for the following immediate remedial actions:
 
·         Government of Uganda must immediately support a Shs150 billion increase in funding for urgent priorities in the 2011/12 health budget, in particular procurement of essential medicines, deployment and remuneration of health workers, and equipping low level health facilities with commodities and health workers
·         Immediate investigation by the Auditor General of the unauthorized expenditure by the Executive and immediate action to recover the stolen GAVI funds for the benefit of health service delivery in this country.
·         Donors to take immediate action to demand for accountability for the use of public resources (aid) in Uganda.
·         Ugandans must demand for accountability for the funds that have been put to waste by the government on unproductive activities
 
Participating Organisations
1.      Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA)Uganda
2.      Basic Needs (UK) in Uganda
3.      CENTRE FOR HEALTH, HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEVELOPMENT (CEHURD)
4.      Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda)
5.      International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW)
6.      International AIDS Alliance
7.      Joyce Fertility Support Centre Uganda
8.      Health Gap
9.      German Foundation for World Population (DSW) Uganda
10.    National Care Centre
11.    National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA)
12.    National Association of Women Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU)
13.    Mental Health Uganda (MHU)
14.    Platform for Labor Action (PLA)
15.    Sickle Cell Association Of Uganda (SAU)
16.    The Positive Men's Union (POMU)
17.    Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA)
18.    Uganda National Health Consumers' Organisation (UNHCO)
19.    Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU)
20.    UGANDA WOMEN'S CANCER SUPPORT ORGANISATION (UWOCASO).
21.    UNERELA+

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