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Fight to control national drugs body

But, this is not a new happening at NDA. When Kusemererwa joined NDA, her predecessor Dr. Gordon Katende Sematiko, had been kicked out prematurely a year before. When the Independent spoke to him, he was still disgruntled. He alleged he had been framed and kicked out unfairly.

“I was suspended to give way for investigations but a few days later I received another letter signed by the chairman that I had been dismissed with immediate effect. I wasn’t given chance to explain myself,” he said.

Sematiko with other two colleagues were fired over alleged abuse of office. He allegedly without permission from the board transferred US$ 5million (then Shs14 billion) from the official authority account in Standard Chartered Bank to an unauthorized fixed deposit account in Orient Bank.

Sematiko who maintains that he possesses minutes and audio recordings of the board meeting that authorized him to open up a new fixed deposit account, accuses the board of using that as an excuse to get rid of him so that they could get their favorite candidate in the position.

“I had informed the board that we had a surplus and suggested we save it on a fixed deposit account to earn the authority some interest. They agreed and I have evidence,” he says.

Before all this happened in 2011, Sematiko’s confirmation as the new Executive Secretary of the authority also did not come easily. He had been blocked by then Minister Christine Ondoa who fired the entire board of 20 members that had appointed him. The board consists of members from major health institutions in the country; for instance a representative from Mulago National Referral Hospital, one from the pharmaceutical society of Uganda, Ministry of Health, Uganda AIDS Commission, National Chemotherapeutic laboratory, a legal advisor, Joint medical stores, national medical stores, representative of the herbalists and medical students. It was until 2013, after being summoned by the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to explain why he was occupying the office illegally without a confirmation letter from the board, that his appointment was formalized.

The accusations and counter accusations of intrigue and in fighting among people in these top positions at NDA date from as far back as 2002 when then Executive Secretary Dr. John Lule and retired dentist Dr. William Nganwa who was board chairman were arrested over alleged abuse of office. They were accused of permitting illegal importation and local distribution of anti-malarial drugs from a blacklisted pharmaceutical factory in Ningbo, China. The controversy at the authority came when the top officials were immediately allowed to go back to the job by then-Health Minister Jim Muhwezi even when investigations were still ongoing contrary to the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU) standing orders that provide for interdiction of any administrator being investigated. Many accused Muhwezi of allowing the two back on the job because Nganwa was his relative.

However, as NDA appears to be embroiled in endless fights, scandals, and accusations and counter accusations, it appears critical to investigate where the source of the problem is. Importing and distributing drugs across the whole country involves big money and big deals. Why does anyone who gets in this position get into some kind of trouble? Isn’t this derailing this critical organization? Already several Auditor General’s reports have punched holes in their work as they have found pharmacies operating illegally without licenses.

Cissy Kagaba the Executive Director Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) says what’s happening at the drugs’ body is a reflection of what is happening in other government departments and agencies; “they are always in intrigue and power struggles instead of getting committed to their work”.

Kagaba, who says unless genuine commitment is demonstrated and not the usual rhetoric, such occurrences will continue.

“The victim of what’s happening is the ordinary and vulnerable Ugandan who will continue receiving poor services and taking fake drugs as the regulators continue to fight,” she says.

Kagaba adds: “We also cannot rule out the power and influence of syndicates and mafias if it’s true that she (Kusemererwa) had started stepping on people’s toes, by probably cleansing the institution of graft. They can easily pull her out if she is getting in their way”.

Established in 1993, NDA is mandated to ensure the availability, at all times, of essential, efficacious and cost-effective drugs to the population  as a means of providing satisfactory healthcare and safeguarding the appropriate use of drugs. But, for many years, stories told about the authority have been of bribery, poor performance, corruption scandals and abuse of office yet the authority has crucial roles of regulating pharmacies and drug shops, controlling importation and exportation of pharmaceuticals.


One comment

  1. NDA is, to say the least, from a strategist’s view is a smouldering chandelier of Political and mismanagement affiliated chaos. There’s a couple of invisible hands that reign at NDA to secure one at the helm.
    Sematiko was resisted since his first time to rise best candidate at interviews that brought Mr. Muhairwe later in office as Executive secretary. Mr. Muhairwe had a God father at the MOH who propped up him to take the job on allegedly tribalistic grounds after quashing Sematiko’s victory and labeling Sematiko a criminal without charges leveled against him. Indeed Mr. Muhairwe attempted to stand for the position of NDA boss the third time when the contract offered him only two terms. That alone explains how connected the guy was/is. Muhairwe’s application was , however trashed by panelists that underlined his attempt at the job as unacceptable.

    Sematiko’s second shot at the post around 2011 was vehemently resisted by the same group of mafias who had blocked him earlier but failed upon clearance of the same earlier allegations against him by the IGG.
    Around 2012, elements in Police CID Headquarters were used to conduct a fake investigation at NDA advancing reason of alleged gross mismanagement and lack of accountability at the Head office. The effort calculated to find fault with Sematiko who was targeted became futile upon finding that all his travel records and others were up to date and properly filed.
    Another attempt on Sematiko, invoked in the Medicines and Health Monitoring Unit to conduct a commission of inquiry into alleged MISMANAGEMENT at NDA. At the end of of its work, it recommended inter alia the immediate dismissal of Sematiko citing illegal occupation of office having been irregularly appointed by the Board chaired by Dr. Mwesigye who was sacked with others from NDA for the sin of appointing an enemy. The scheme failed when Dr. Bariseene Mwesigye sued the Hon. Minister Adoa for taking the law in her hands of which an appeal was logged in by the Minister against the advice of the Attorney General after NDA had lost the first plaint at High Court but still Dr. Mwesigye won the legal duel of which taxpayer paid through the nose. The confusion created by these cases enabled the embattled Sematiko to stay in office until when Cosase of Parliament ratified his appointment. Later a full fledged Board was constituted which was being mobilized to remove Sematiko upon adoption of minutes of the Medicines and Health Monitoring Unit’s report.
    This delayed as some members had no vendetta against Sematiko.

    Sematiko’s water loo was in 2015 when the vultures in NDA backed by the mafias learnt that he (Sematiko) was requesting the Board for a second term at the helm. They ganged up looked for any blame to come up with against him until when they discovered a transfer of funds US$ 5,000,000 FROM Standard chartered bank to Orient bank’s Fixed deposit account (FDR). Sematiko and others were accused of overriding the system and fraudulently taking away Authorities fund without Board authorization.
    In response to accusation, the accused trio clarified that it was agreed in the 38th Meeting of the 5th Authority of NDA Board that redundant funds on accounts queried by Auditor general be invested for interest generating purposes instead of losing it in bank charges levied.
    The first FDR deposit was cleared by the Board on minutes basis and the principal fixed in Stanchart bank where after 03 months the funds generated interest of over US $ 38,000 because of a merge interest margin but preferred by “those with interestin the bank” among Board members of NDA.
    Basing on the same Board minutes, it was allowed that upon good performance, the same fund would be re-invested for a longer period ((6-12 months) of which signed minutes are handy and an audio tape recording quoting proceedings on the investment subject. NDA Management, therefore under Sematiko took to re–invest the same funds but this time round in Orient bank though at a higher interest rate of 4.75% was not favoured as Stanchart or Stanbic by leading elements on the Board because of vested interests. Indeed , it is on record that they faulted Sematiko why he did not halve the funds and bank them in stanchart and Stanbic banks even if it meant earning lower interest rates. Sematiko pointed out that he would again be mostl likely accused by the Board for causing financial loss like what befell Dr Muhairwe with investments of Global fund monies.
    Reaction of the Board happened to be querying Sematiko and other Management staff (Finance and Auditor) to explain where they got the Board resolution to transfer the funds. Their answer to this was that there was no Board resolution since even the first investment carried no resolution and only based on Board minutes.
    Upon failure to induce the accused to file an apology to justify Board impugned action against them, the Board moved to suspend all the three officers under disguise of istepping aside to allow nvestigations that after a few days they lifted to become a summary dismissal.
    Long story short, for those who have a name to protect, NDA is not a safe zone for you. It’s all about intrigue, back stabbing, looting, character assassination. Pharmacists under mine colleagues in that every one values own University where he graduated from. Those trained in Uganda think that those who went abroad were failures who could not make it Makerere but rescued by money. It’s a crime for one who studied from abroad to lead those who studied here who regard you as non starter. Basing on he Institution’s history, no one goes to head NDA and come out clean unless if you have highly placed god fathers in government. Take Dr. Nganwa, Dr. Lule , Kabogo,Kakwemeire, Sematiko, Kusemererwa they were all bruised and tarnished in a way.
    Sematiko was also targeted by those who expected to make a fortune out of the contract for building a new tower to house the NDA headquarters. They needed one of their own in place to help themselves on the loot once chance came afloat. Gordon to some was a stumbling block to their future grabbing chances.
    The controversy that arose over the mentioned tender (much as sematiko had been kicked out) was telling of how the hyenas had placed themselves for the carcass. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT A CONTRACT MEANT FOR NDA WAS SENT TO BE EVALUATED BY URA as if NDA had no procuremet gurus?. Iam privy to circumstances where such is allowed but there was no reason to justify this.

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