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Minister Musenero asked to explain alleged misuse of Covid-19 vaccine development funds

Dr Monica Musenero is expected on the floor parliament on Tuesday to respond to queries raised by legislators. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita Among has directed the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Monica Musenero, to present a report on the status of the Covid-19 vaccine development.

The directive followed a statement on the country’s COVID-19 response and vaccination process which was presented before Parliament by Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng. During the debate, Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi, noted that a statement presented by the minister mostly made reference to donated supplies and limited procurement by the country.

“Madam Speaker, I want this House to recall, that in 2020, a certain group of scientists convinced the President that they could produce a vaccine for COVID-19. And indeed, they went ahead and drew big sums of money. In 2020 they drew USD 20 billion under the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics,” Musinguzi said.

The Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics, a brainchild of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is led by Dr Musenero, who was a presidential advisor on epidemics at the time it was unveiled. Now Musinguzi says that during the current year, Dr Musenero also received 50 billion Shillings after convincing the President that she would ensure the production of a vaccine.

President Yoweri Museveni has previously said that Uganda will no longer need COVID-19 vaccine donations because the country is in the advanced stages of starting production of its own vaccines. For instance, Museveni told the World Health Summit Regional Meeting in Munyonyo that the global rush to acquire vaccines by the rich at the expense of poor countries is a good lesson for African countries that don’t want to innovate.

Museveni was optimistic that Uganda’s mass vaccine production will commence this November. He added that Uganda’s only urgent need was to acquire raw materials for the vaccine under development by researchers at Makerere University.

Musinguzi, a former Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Science, said that by the time of the President’s statements, made in June, billions of Shillings had already been released towards the development of a vaccine and demanded that this should be accounted for.

Chua West MP Okin Ojara said that his colleague was presenting a serious allegation and requested for a full statement to the House so that it can be discussed and investigations ensued.

Similarly, Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of the Opposition also noted that the allegations were grave to the person of a Minister, and added that the House can do the country justice by asking her to explain herself against any evidence by MP Musinguzi before any other supplementary budget for the Ministry of Science is approved.

However, the government Chief Whip Thomas Tayebwa said that it was going to be difficult to subject the Minister to a committee over allegations without evidence. He appealed that MP Musinguzi is instead given time to table substantive evidence before the Speaker makes any directive while at the same time, a copy of Hansard would be presented to the minister so that she formally responds to the allegations while making a statement on the Innovation Fund

Among directed that the minister appears before parliament on Tuesday to respond to allegations made by the Member of Parliament.

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