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Health ministry explains UVRI COVID-19 funding

A Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) Doctor in the lab

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Diana Atwine has said that the lengthy process for a government entity to avail funds to another stopped the direct provision of COVID-19 funds to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

The explanation follows a statement by the Director of UVRI Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu indicating that the government is yet to provide any funding to facilitate the activities of the Institute in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The institute which hosts a regional referral lab on influenza has been the sole research and testing facility for COVID-19 in the country.  But Kaleebu said that they had to suspend all other activities for the third and fourth quarters and diverted 780 million Shillings from other research programs to fund COVID-19 work.

He said that the Institute presented a budget of USD 1.7 million (6.32 billion Shillings) to the Ministry of Health towards their COVID-19 related work. He notes that most of the funding to UVRI has come from donors and partners like the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Jack Ma Foundation.

But Dr Atwine said that under Public Finance Management Act, transferring money that is appropriated to Ministry of Health to UVRI or to Mulago Hospital, requires a Memorandum of Understanding which also has to go through the Solicitor General.

She says that the Ministry has been working with a short-term budget which was approved by Parliament through supplementary funding in April. Dr Atwine said that the government provided 119.18 billion Shillings and that they are all using a joint work plan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She added that through the joint work plan, the Ministry of Health has been paying UVRI staff and that all the test kits, PPEs, fuel and other items have been coming from the Ministry of Health. Dr Atwine was providing accountability to the nation on the COVID-19 funds and donations this afternoon.

She said that her ministry hopes that in the next financial year, each entity will present their budgets for separate funding.                                         

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