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Muhakanizi: No money for coronavirus emergency

Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi before PAC

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament-PAC on Tuesday afternoon established that government lacks money to handle any emergency that would arise from the coronavirus outbreak.

The Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi revealed this while appearing before PAC to respond to queries in the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 financial year Auditor General’s report.

It came after the Committee members led by the PAC Chairperson, Nathan Nandala Mafabi asked Muhakanizi whether government was ready to handle the Corona Virus emergency should it spread to Uganda as well as locusts.

The epidemic broke out in China, which has since registered over 4593 cases and more than 200 deaths. 56 cases have so far been confirmed in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, USA, Canada, France and Germany.

According to experts, Corona virus presents with flu-like symptoms, fever, cough, and shortness in breath and in severe cases pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure.  The strain of the virus is new and hasn’t been identified in humans previously.

While responding to the Committee, Muhakanzi said there is no money to manage the Corona Virus emergency once it reaches the country. He said that the matter was discussed in Cabinet on Monday as well as the issue of locusts, saying Cabinet approved the release of Shillings 15 billion from the Contingency Fund.

Nandala directed that the Finance Ministry to avail his committee with a bank statement for the Contingency Fund to ascertain how the money has been utilized on different emergencies.

This stems from reports by the Accountant General, Lawrence Ssemakula indicating that besides the Shillings 15 billion withdrawn for the locusts, government also withdrew money for Bududa mudslide victims and roads.

Muhakanzi’s revelation comes a few days after the Health Ministry indicated that it had equipped Entebbe and Naguru Regional referral hospitals to handle any suspected cases of Corona Virus if they arise.

Charles Olaro, the Ag. Director-General of Health Services noted that although they hadn’t registered any case of Corona Virus, they are on high alert because of the heavy number of Ugandans traveling to and from China.

Some of the measures being considered by the ministry include setting up screening points at the airport and a national task force that has already been activated to handle any arising cases. The ministry is also considering a sensitization campaign in collaboration with Civil Aviation Authority-CAA for all airport staff on the risk of the disease and its symptoms.

In a statement issued on Tuesday last week, the World Health Organisation-WHO revealed that their scientists are studying the samples provided by China to understand the virus better and establish ways to limit its transmission.

“While the current understanding of the disease remains limited, most cases reported to date have been milder, with around 20% of those infected experiencing severe illness”, read a statement from WHO.

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