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Parliament Accuses NMS of Theft and Dealing in Expired Drugs, Approves Breaking its Monopoly

Legislators have this afternoon approved parliament’s Public Accounts Committee- PAC Central Government report recommending that the monopoly of National Medical Stores- NMS be stopped.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.

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After years of procuring and distributing medicines and medical supplies all over the country, the National Medical Stores -NMS is now set to face competition with other players in the field. This follows a damning committee report accusing NMS of theft, overpricing and supplying expiring drugs to health centres that don't need them and then charging them for the destruction of the junk medicine.

Legislators have this afternoon approved parliament’s Public Accounts Committee- PAC Central Government report carrying a recommendation that the monopoly of National Medical Stores be stopped.

The report on the findings of the Auditor General on the Health Sector for the financial years 2016/2017 to 2019/2020 unearths massive rot at the NMS involving and corruption, incompetence resulting into lack of essential medicines and health supplies, alongside exposure of the population to expired drugs and capacity for such drugs' their destruction.

The National Medical Stores is mandated to procure, store and distribute human medication and health-related consumable items to government - owned heath units across the country.

In the report presented by PAC Chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the lack of essential medicines and health supplies is attributed to low supply and not only improper budgeting.

Mafabi also says that users of the medicines and health supplies are not involved in the planning and budgeting process and NMS provides the indicative figures of the essential medicines and health supplies to users after the budget has been passed.

“Prices charged by National Medical Stores were beyond the market prices; no private hospital or health unit can buy from National Medical Stores because of its high prices, and hospitals prefer buying drugs from the Joint Medical Stores because they are cheaper,” reads part of the committee report.

Nandala also quoted President Yoweri Museveni’s letter dated 16th May, 2020 in which he called NMS as anti-Ugandan operations because of the prices and operations.

He recommended that the monopoly of NMS should be stopped because it is overcharging hospitals and health units.

“Indicative prices of medicines should be provided to users to assist them determine the usage of their vote allocation," recommends PAC. "Budgeting should be done when the users know the prices and this would be the transparent way of determining that National Medical Stores is providing the essential medicines and health supplies at the market price.”

    Expired Drugs The committee also established that there are a lot of expired essential medicines and health supplies and that this is a result of the push-down where essential medicines and health supplies are sent down by NMS without requisition.

  Nandala also notes that the essential medicines and health supplies sent are those which are about to expire and therefore have a short shelf life.

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  PAC has thus recommended that the essential medicines to Health Centres should be those they have requested for and that no health centre should receive essential medicines and health supplies which are about to expire or have a short shelf life because drugs purchased in a financial year should be those manufactured in that year.

  The MPs also say that government should establish control systems where NMS should not be the sole executor for example procure, store, distribute and destroy drugs.

  Destruction of Expired Drugs

“The Committee observed that NMS which is responsible for the supply of essential medicines and health supplies is the same one that destroys expired ones at a high cost to health units. The destruction does not follow the established Laws and hence corruption and theft by NMS,” said Nandala.

He says that section 35 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) providing that any abandonment of claims and write off of public money and stores is done by approval of Parliament is being violated by NMS.

  Nandala adds that Parliament has never approved write off of expired essential medicines and health supplies and that this means NMS escapes accountability.

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Robert Centenary, the Kasese Municipality MP agreed that NMS should work like other medical suppliers and health centres purchase freely.

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Jenipher Namuyangu, the Kibuku Woman MP supported the committee report saying that health centres should not even be limited on the quantity of drugs they have. 

  Namuyangu who is the Minister of State for Local Government said that the issues raised by PAC are pertinent and that there is need for a joint fight against corruption.

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  David Bahati, the Minister of State for Planning said that the Ministry of Health will be able to respond to issues raised in the subsequent Treasury Memorandum.

  A Treasury Memorandum means an action report by the Minister or government detailing actions taken on recommendations of parliament arising from a report.

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