Breaking

Parliament Directs IGG to Further Investigate PRESIDE Covid-19 Funds Utilization

Minister Monica Musenero following a debate on a committee report regarding utilisation of Covid-19 funds by PRESIDE.

Audio 8



The House on Tuesday tasked the Inspectorate of Government –IG to investigate further the utilization of funds appropriated to facilitate the COVID-19 vaccine development by Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero.

Anita Among, the Speaker of Parliament directed that the IG's investigation should take into consideration the Parliament report by the Select Committee on Science, Technology, and Innovation and actions regarding the matter reported to the House within three months.

This followed a debate on the committee report presented to parliament by the committee chairperson, Xavier Kyooma. In the report, the committee observed that poor financial management resulted in at least 2.06 billion not being accounted for under operational funds,  queried 1.4 billion for PRESIDE staff and others.

Kyooma also reported the lack of guidelines on reporting resulting in discrepancies and that the failure to harmonize allowance rates paid to scientists also led to wastage.

The report by the House committee stems from its investigation of allegations of irregularities regarding the utilization of funds for Covid-19 vaccine development by the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE).

PRESIDE, a brainchild of President Yoweri Museveni is supervised by Dr. Monica Musenero, who was a Presidential Advisor on Epidemics at the time it was unveiled.

The committee established that President Museveni on 6th May 2020 directed that PRESIDE be established and 2 billion be released to the State House Comptroller to facilitate the operations of the initiative. The committee also notes that 5.3 billion was provided in the financial year 2019/2020 and 31.03 billion provided in 2020/2021 for scientists under PRESIDE for procurement of equipment and project operational costs.

An additional 25 billion was released for project operations, a supplementary request of 50.4 billion for a manufacturing plant, and 27 billion for additional operational funds for PRESIDE projects in the financial year 2021/2022.

Kyooma observed that despite the commitment by PRESIDE in the Memorandum of Understanding –MOU with the Ministry of Science to account for the money advanced to scientists, the initiative did not. The Committee Chairperson also said that at the inception of PRESIDE, government failed to define its legality, analyze and optimize the structures that were already in place, and build on these as a way of driving the pathogen economy forward.

He recommended the disbanding of PRESIDE and further investigation by the Auditor General and Inspector General of Government –IGG.

Reacting to the committee findings, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira Municipality wondered why an entity- PRESIDE without a legal status was chosen to handle public funds in the process of developing a Ugandan Covid-19 vaccine.

//Cue in: “the status of…//

Cue out:…was making submissions.”//

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP said that the report findings regarding anomalies were unfortunate. She said that Musenero fails to conduct herself well as per the Leadership Code Act. 

 

//Cue in: “I have heard…//

Cue out:…procedures were followed.”//

Loy Katali, the Jinja Woman MP also demanded that the IGG investigates the matter further saying that Musenero should have resigned immediately as supervisor of PRESIDE when she was appointed Minister.

“The misuse of funds, diversion of funds, reallocation without approval is becoming a trend in this nation," said Katali. "Whenever there is a project, people get excited because they want to eat that money. They have talked about the legal status of the entity…no wonder, it was a bonanza for some people.”  

Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition-LOP said that if the findings of the committee are watered down, they will have empowered a culture of impunity and that everyone will be culpable.

“We desire to see the country progress on a clear path where innovators and scientists guide our daily thinking and the path to development," said Mpuuga. "Science must not only be motivated by availability of money but also availability of skills and commitment to invest skills in a particular output.”

LOP said that there is no way Minister Musenero can be exonerated on failing to account for funds. 

//Cue in: “I have no…//

Cue out:…and held accountable.”//

Geoffrey Ekanya, the Tororo North MP said that Minister Musenero, former Minister of Science, Elioda Tuwesigye and the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry David Ebong need to be held accountable for any funds lost.

//Cue in: “because money has…//

Cue out:…assets and liability.”//

Asuman Basalirwa, the Bugiri Municipality MP said that the report is clear on misappropriation of funds. He said that this is a matter that requires further information to ascertain the individuals who were responsible for the money lost.

Basalirwa argued that the auditor general has already had an opinion in regard to the utilization of the funds and that the further investigations should now be carried out by the IGG.

//Cue in: “what this report…//

Cue out:…already an opinion.”//

Dan Kimosho, the Kazo County MP said that the parliament rules of procedure allow amendment of observations and recommendation of a House report.

‘Isn’t it procedurally right that instead of spending more money into investigating this matter, as parliament we make precise recommendations to the effect that whoever we will find culpable according to the observations, is held personally liable?” Kimosho asked.

Speaker Among said that it was good practice that observations made in the report speak to recommendations. She however said that a decision on the matter would be made after the debate is concluded.

Kimosho then moved a motion that the Minister of Science, Musenero is held responsible for any loss of fund and that parliament urges the President to have her step aside as further investigations are carried out.

Parliament adopted the amendment by Kimosho but Among said that parliament cannot direct the President and that it only urges him.

//Cue in: “I would want…//

Cue out:…the appointing authority.”//

Nathan Byanyima, the Bukanga North MP said that science research should not be used as a scapegoat to squander public funds. He said that there must be accountability for all funds appropriated towards the Covid-19 vaccine development.

//Cue in: “it hurts me…//

Cue out:…in the budget.”//

Maurice Kibalya, the Bugabula South MP said that the Minister of Science, Dr. Monica Musenero has to account for the money provided to scientists.

//Cue in: “right honorable Speaker…//

Cue out:…honorable began from.”//

In her defence, Minister Musenero said that PRESIDE did not receive money directly for Covid-19 research and that research grants were released directly to the grantees and the processes managed by the predecessor Ministry of Science and Technology.

Lukia Nakadama, the third deputy Prime Minister pledged to ensure that the committee report recommendations were going to be studied by the Executive and to involve the IGG.

Images 1

Keywords