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Amuru Blocks Establishment of Private COVID-19 Testing Laboratory in Elegu

Michael Lakony, the Amuru District LC 5 Chairperson disclosed that while undertaking their routine supervisory work in Elegu, they landed on posters and flyers of the organization advertising their activities at the border.
11 Feb 2021 15:56
Amuru District Local Government has halted efforts by Test and Fly Laboratory, a private firm to set up a COVID-19 Testing laboratory citing unclear work methods. Test and Fly Laboratory headquartered along Yusuf Lule Road in Kampala is among the 14 laboratories accredited by the Ministry of Health to carry out COVID-19 testing in Uganda.

The organization pinned flyers about its activities in Elegu Town Council at the beginning of this month. They were also assembling their equipment at the multi-billion Elegu One-Stop Border Post building, which houses government agencies operating at the Uganda -South Sudan border.

Michael Lakony, the Amuru District LC 5 Chairperson disclosed that while undertaking their routine supervisory work in Elegu, they landed on posters and flyers of the organization advertising their activities at the border. He said when they probed the organization, it was discovered that they were given green light by the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary without the involvement of local leaders.

Lakony also revealed to URN that the stealth move to direct the private entity to operate in a government building puzzled the District leadership prompting them to suspend its activities until further notice. Robert Onekalit, the in-charge of Elegu Health Team explains that the activities of the Test and Fly Laboratory are not any different from the Government's newly established COVID-19 laboratory in the neighbouring Adjumani District.

He noted the activities of the entity remain unclear to them, yet their six-hour turn-around time for COVID-19 testing and results are similar to the services offered by the Government laboratory in Adjumani, less than 70km away. A source privy to the new laboratory that preferred anonymity because of conflict of interest in the matter, disclosed that arrangements to establish the lab were hurriedly conceived and bypassed the approval of key stakeholders given the lucrative nature of the business.

Attempts to contact the company officials were futile by the time of filing this story. Equally, repeated calls to the Health Ministry's Senior Communications Officer, Emmanuel Ainebyoona went unanswered. In September 2020, after the cabinet approved cost-sharing in COVID-19 testing in the country, Elegu alone raised over Shillings 200 million in revenue for the period under review. Official sources further disclosed that every day, the Point of Entry raises an average of Shillings 10 million in revenue.

In the February 10th letter to the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, the district is demanding an explanation for the justification of establishing such a facility in Elegu yet the one in Adjumani is already operational. They also want an explanation of why the tangible revenue generated at the Border should be surrendered to a Private Company within the Government premises.

Furthermore, the district wants a clear explanation from the approving authority how Test and Fly Company will operate, its staffing, reporting modalities and what would happen to the role of the Ministry of Health structure already managing COVID-19 at the border.

At the peak of COVID-19 outbreak when a testing machine was donated to the Government of Uganda and was to be installed at Elegu, the Health Ministry's technical team who conducted the assessment noted that the laboratory could not be set up at Elegu. 

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