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Dr. Baterana charged with embezzlement, abuse of office

Dr. Baterana Byarugaba. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Police have preferred charges of fraudulent accounting, abuse of office, embezzlement and causing financial loss to the government against Dr. Baterana Byarugaba, the executive director of Mulago National Referral Hospital.

According to the State House Health Monitoring Unit, the above crimes were committed in the last four years and cost the government over 28 billion shillings.

The national referral hospital came under scrutiny following numerous complaints from the public about the poor service and management of the government hospital.

Preliminary findings from the investigations that began in April last year revealed a number of inconsistencies and fraudulent accounting in four areas. These include finances, equipment repairs and maintenance, procurement of medicines and other medical supplies and illegal operations of private pharmacies within the hospital.

Dr Warren Namara, the Director of the State House Health Monitoring Unit says that their investigations revealed several inconsistencies in regard to the procurement of medicines and other medical supplies at the hospital.

He cited where Mulago hospital paid First Pharmacy over Shillings 2 billion to supply medicines under emergency orders or medical supplies, but only half of what was ordered was received.

Namara also says that there were also inconsistencies in the number of drugs that First Pharmacy supplied to the hospital bulk or central stores.

The investigations also revealed that in 2016, the hospital contracted MS Setramaco International Limited and MS Convention World Limited to provide laundry machines, central sterile equipment and steam boilers and received double payment.

“In 2016 Mulago contracted two companies and our investigations about those companies have so far revealed forged job cards, work completion certificates and duplicated activities. This was a loss occasioned to the Government of Uganda under dubious and fictitious payments for supply of services and consumables,” he said.

Namara also noted that the hospital was not able to account for missing payment vouchers amounting to Shillings 5 billion and how another Shillings 974 million was spent between July 2019 and June 2021.

According to Namara, Dr Byarugaba needs to explain how the hospital allowed two private pharmacies to operate within its premises. He explains that Mulago signed two illegal tenancy agreements with First pharmacy and Ecopharm despite the government’s directive stopping this.

Dr Byarugaba faces jail term for over 30 years if found guilty of the charges slapped against him. The State House Health Monitoring Unit recorded statements from the owners of First Pharmacy and key Mulago staff including the Senior Hospital Administrator, the senior hospital engineer, the heads of account, senior accountant and account assistants.

By the time of filing this story, Dr Byarugaba was still in custody at Jinja Road Police Station. Dr Byarugaba has served as the executive director of the hospital for 19 years. He was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni to improve services at Mulago hospital and fight corruption that had be-deviled the institution.

His appointment followed investigations into allegations of corruption and mismanagement by the Health Monitoring Unit that saw the transfer of the then Executive Director Dr Edward Ddumba.

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