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Parliament COVID-19 Taskforce Committee wants Minister Aceng to explain discrepancy in her report on COVID-19 expenditure

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Parliament COVID-19 Taskforce Committee wants Minister Aceng to explain discrepancy in her report on COVID-19 expenditure

Members of the Parliamentary Covid-19 Taskforce committee have discovered discrepancies in the Ministry of Health Covid-19 expenditure, following an accountability report presented to the committee by the Minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng.

The  committee report that is scheduled to be presented before parliament by Chairperson Abdu Katuntu highlights that during the financial year 2019/2020, parliament appropriated 94.188 billion Shillings under a supplementary budget to support the country’s response towards the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Ministry of Health in its submission to the Taskforce indicated that by end of the financial year in June 2020, a total of 92.431 billion had been spent and a balance of 1.757 billion shillings was returned to the Consolidated Fund.

A review of the detailed breakdown of the actual expenditure submitted to the Taskforce revealed a total of 99.069 billion as having been spent instead of the reported 92.431 billion.

The task force further noted that this figure is over and above the appropriated amount by 4.881 billion, adding that the source of the additional funds totaling 4.881 billion remains unknown.

Also highlighted by the Taskforce, is the discrepancy in the purchase and national wide distribution of fabric masks worth 88.084 billion Shillings which decision was taken by the government as a condition for lifting the lockdown in May 2020. 

While cabinet then directed the Ministry of Health to provide non-medical and reusable face masks totaling 34,109,085 to all persons above 6 years of age. In addition, 2,592,963 masks for finalists in candidate classes were procured. A total of 36,702,048 masks at 2,400 Shillings per mask were procured and distributed to 135 districts and all finalist learners across the country.

However, the committee says that a review of the Ministry of Health accountability of Covid-19 funding (March 2020 to June 2021) reveals that a total of 90.99 billion shillings was spent in respect to the procurement of fabric masks for communities (35,323,287) and finalist learners (2,592,963) totaling to 37,916,250 which is different from figures submitted by Minister Aceng in her report dated 7th July 2021.

According to the committee chairman, Hon. Abdu Katuntu, the analysis reveals a discrepancy in both the reported number of fabric masks procured and distributed (1,214,202) and the amount of money received and spent (2,914 billion) on procurement of the fabric masks.

The committee has recommended that the Minister of Health should explain the discrepancy arising from her report.

Members further recommended that government submits detailed accountability to parliament for the 22.18 billion shillings appropriated to facilitate the establishment of 20 isolation centres per district indicating the location in each district where such facilities were established.

“During the financial year 2019/2020, parliament appropriated a total of 22.18 billion to support the establishment of 20 Isolation Centers in each district and to undertake surveillance as a means of slowing down on disease transmission. However, while on field visits to various districts, the committee teams established that in most of these districts, not a single Isolation centre ever existed,” reads the report.

The committee chairman says that whereas there is still a deficit of the required budgetary allocation towards procurement of the much-needed vaccines to the tune of 365.9 billion Shillings, Government is still spending huge sums of money on Covid-19 containment measures instead of prioritizing mass vaccination. 

Since the onset of Covid-19 in the financial year 2019/2020, a total of 142.23 billion has so far been provided towards operational funds for enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown directives. 

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