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MPs demand audit of COVID cash

MP Cecilia Ogwal of the Budget committee wants thorough audit of all the Covid funds that were provided for the various interventions. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of the Budget committee of Parliament have demanded for an audit into the funds received by government to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The demand was put to the Finance Minister Matia Kasaija who appeared before the committee on Monday to present government priorities in the Budget Framework Paper.

In his statement to the committee, the minister highlighted several interventions that have helped mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19. These include increase in public health expenditure to cater for procurement of Personal Protective Equipment and testing kits, and installation of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in all 14 regional referral hospitals.

The Dokolo woman MP Cecilia Ogwal noted that the committee had the responsibility to ask for a thorough audit of all the funds that were provided for the various interventions.

The government has received a staggering amount of resources in form of both loans and budget line financing to tackle the pandemic. For instance in June 2020, Parliament approved a supplementary budget of 1.087 trillion Shillings to facilitate the COVID-19 response by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Trade and other government entities.

In May 2020, the IMF approved US $491.5 million emergency assistance for Uganda under the Rapid Credit Facility. It was to help finance the health, social protection and macroeconomic stabilization measures, meet the urgent balance-of-payments and fiscal needs arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.

This was followed by a World Bank US $300 million budget support operation to boost the government’s capacity to prevent, detect and treat the coronavirus, protect the poor and vulnerable population, and support economic recovery.

The total donations by the public to the COVID-19 taskforce were valued at 28 billion Shillings by May 2020. They included both cash and non-cash donations channeled through the national response fund chaired by Emmanuel Katongole, the executive chairman of Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Limited.

MP Cecilia Ogwal says that these funds as well as the donations in cash and in kind from the public need to be fully accounted for.

The Bunyole West MP James Waluswaka demanded to know why millions of Ugandans never received masks and yet the funds to avail every Ugandan with a mask were appropriated by parliament.

Last month, an independent report by accountability agencies revealed that utilization of Covid-19 funds was marred with gross irregularities, poor planning and dubious contract signings. The report titled, Prudent Public Finance Management for Greater Accountable Governance, assessed expenditure and deployment of Covid-19 resources, made by the Uganda Debt Network (UDN), Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, Action Aid, and Transparency International Uganda.

When asked by URN on what he plans to do regarding the demand for the audit, Kasaija said it was one of his priorities and he intended to follow it through.

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