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PRESIDE Does Not Handle Covid-19 Funds -Minister Musenero :: Uganda Radionetwork

PRESIDE Does Not Handle Covid-19 Funds -Minister Musenero

Dr. Monica Musenero, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation.

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The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero says that the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics-PRESIDE does not handle any Covid-19 fund disbursements to scientists or purchase of equipment.

Musenero made the statement in response to parliament's investigation that she is facing over the alleged management of 31 billion Shillings appropriated for the vaccine development process.

The Select Committee was among others tasked by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among to seek accountability for the funds following documentary evidence tabled before Parliament by Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi seeking to implicate Dr. Musenero regarding the utilization of funds meant to facilitate the COVID-19 vaccine development.

Musinguzi demanded accountability for funds so far released towards the development of a vaccine under the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics-PRESIDE, a brainchild of President Yoweri Museveni led by Dr. Musenero, who was a Presidential Advisor on Epidemics at the time it was unveiled.    

“From the onset, I would like to state that PRESIDE does not handle the Covid-19 fund disbursements to scientists or purchase of equipment. The PRESIDE secretariat does not have or operate any account in any bank,” says Musenero.

  This was in response to the acting Chairperson of the Select Committee, Tony Awany who tasked Minister Musenero to provide accountability for the 31 billion Shillings that was provided to different scientists under her coordination to research and ultimately develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

Awany recounted statements by the former Permanent Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology, David OO Obong who told the Select Committee recently that it was the Musenero's responsibility to account for the funds as per the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they signed.

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In response, Musenero said that the Covid-19 fund as passed by parliament in a supplementary budget is handled by two accounting officers including the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the State House Comptroller.

According to Musenero, this is in accordance with guidance by Secretary to Treasury in a letter dated 4th August 2020.

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She noted that the letter specified that a total of 31.03 billion Shillings would be provided in the financial year 2020/2021 for scientists under coordination by her, of which 15.78 billion is for procurement of equipment and 15.24 billion is for operational expenses.

“It was further agreed that expenditure limits equivalent to Shillings 23 billion be provided in the first quarter for this purpose. The financial support for the secretariat on coordination for scientists will be budgeted for under State House,” Musenero further read out the letter.

Regarding the MoU on the management of funds presented to the committee by the former Permanent Secretary Obong, Musenero said that the document under section 4.5 clearly states that the Ministry shall manage the funding and provide reports and accountability as provided for in the Public Finance Management Act and the Constitution.

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However, Aisha Kabanda the Butambala Woman MP put it to the Minister that under the same MoU, PRESIDE was supposed to account to the Ministry for all money advanced to scientists as required under the relevant laws in Uganda.

“Was that in vain?” Kabanda asked.

Musenero then said that this particular statement has been quoted in error because it was referring to funds given by the Ministry to PRESIDE directly.

“The Ministry did not transfer any funds to PRESIDE, the money given to the institution is given to the institutions but in case the Ministry transfers money to us as PRESIDE, then we account for it,” said Musenero.

MP Awany and Kabanda further tasked the Minister to carefully read the memorandum she signed and respond accordingly. But Musenero said that if the Permanent Secretary had not been satisfied with the management of funds provided to scientists, why would he go ahead to request for more funds from the Ministry of Finance to give to scientists?

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Later, Musenero said that scientists had even accounted for the funds to the Auditor General. MP Awany then tasked Minister Musenero to provide then with the same accountability provided by the Auditor General.

The Minister also denied the allegation that her husband was also involved in the activities of PRESIDE saying that her husband has never been involved in any health related research.

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