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Musenero asked to return to Parliament on Monday with COVID-19 accountability documents


Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero was on Tuesday put to task by the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee –PAC Central Government to explain why she failed to submit accountability documents to the Auditor General.

Musenero and the State House Comptroller, Jane Barekye were appearing before the committee that is considering the Auditor General’s forensic investigation report into Covid-19 funds received and expended by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MoSTI) during financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.

The forensic investigation was informed by a resolution of Parliament on a report of the Parliamentary Taskforce on the National Covid-19 Response which requested the Auditor General to conduct the investigation on Covid-19 funds.

The main objective of the forensic investigation was to ascertain whether all Covid-19-related spending was applied appropriately in accordance with existing laws, policies, and guidelines, whether there was any loss in expenditure and clarify responsible officers, and to make recommendations for better use of Covid-19-related funds.

“I have included all information relevant to the specific transactions as provided to me. However, it is also possible that more documents and information might exist which were not made available to me, or that I was unable to locate. My findings are specific to the procurement of the equipment, the disbursement of Covid-19 funds by MoSTI, and the utilization of the operational funds by the scientists’ approved by the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE),” Auditor General John Muwanga noted in his report.

PRESIDE was a presidential initiative chaired by Minister Musenero, who was then a Senior Presidential Advisor on Epidemics. Composed of several experts and professionals attached to various institutions, PRESIDE was housed at the State House and supervised and coordinated scientific work under different research projects. It entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the ministry on 7th September 2020.

The Auditor General reported that his investigation encountered limitations and one of these was the closure of MoSTI which resulted in the transfer of key personnel and eventually led to challenges in the timely receipt and review of some of the required documentation as well as accessing some officers for interviews as they had been redeployed to new work stations or rendered redundant.

“Hon. Monica Musenero did not provide to me the documents listed below whose existence she had disclosed during her interview with me on 5th July 2022. I could not make the conclusions I could have made; had I obtained and reviewed the documents from PRESIDE,” Muwanga reported.

The documents in question are proof of submission of accountability by PRESIDE by the Ministry, the approved adjusted budgets for the lab animal House project and the PCR and antibody Diagnostic Test Kits, the PRESIDE follow-up on uninstalled equipment for scientists, and the record regarding the current status of equipment procured by the ministry.

When tasked by the PAC Central Government Committee Chairperson, Medard Lubega Sseggona to explain why the documents had not been availed to the Auditor General, Musenero said that she did not give the documents because she had not understood what was being asked for.

She however changed her statement and indicated that the ministry was in transition and that at the time of the interview, all documents had earlier been taken away by the Auditor General.

Dr. Musenero again told the committee that it was possibly an omission not to avail the documents but they are available.

Her statements angered the committee and Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala said that it was the responsibility of the Minister to account for the money availed for different scientific investigations. Nandala informed Musenero that the failure to avail documents to the Auditor General attracts a 12 years prison term under the law.

Sseggona, gave the Minister up to Friday to avail the documents under inquiry. Sseggona adjourned the committee hearings into the matter on Monday next week.

On 30th April 2020, the President directed the then Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda about manufacturing all the anti-coronavirus requirements in Uganda and further listed some scientists who were to be funded for research through the ministry through the purchase of research and development equipment.

On 18th May 2020, the Secretary to Treasury authorized the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation to reallocate innovation funds worth 5.3 billion Shillings to Covid-19 expenditure.

Dr. Musenero, then serving as Senior Presidential Advisor on Epidemics and Minister submitted an updated proposal to the Ministry of Finance to fund 23 projects in the development of interventions for Covid-19 in form of therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines.

The Auditor General indicates that in the financial year 2020/2021, the Ministry received supplementary funding of 31.032 billion which was to support the 23 selected projects of scientists and innovators engaged in Covid-19 scientific research. The money comprised 15.78 billion for the procurement of specialized machinery and equipment and 15.24 billion for operational costs towards the development of vaccines as well as drug diagnostics.



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