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PAC tasks Mbale hospital officials over delayed construction of UGX 22Bn surgical complex

FILE PHOTO: Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee

Mbale, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday tasked officials from Mbale Regional Referral Hospital to explain the delayed completion of the surgical complex.

Construction of the complex started in 2016 and was supposed to end in September this year. It however stalled for 2 years after the contract of Global Network Construction Company Limited was terminated.

Appearing before the committee, officials from Mbale hospital led by the Hospital Director Dr Emmanuel Tugaineyo were tasked to explain the status of the project.

The query stems from the June 2019, Auditor General John Muwanga’s report in which he questioned the failure by the hospital management to utilize the funds provided for various programs and projects. According to the audit report, out of the released Shillings 11.06 billion, Shillings 3.53 billion was not utilized.

Part of the non-utilized funds, 2 billion was for construction of the surgical complex and Shillings 526 million was for salaries of new staff and others.

Dr Emmanuel Tugaineyo told MPs that the project hit a snag when the contractor abandoned the site prompting them to search for a new contractor.

He said that the initial contractor abandoned the work due to the government’s reduced release of funds for the construction works from Shillings 5 billion to Shillings 2 billion.

However, Tugaineyo said that the work which stalled for two years is now set to resume since a new contractor has been identified.

He said the new contract is worth Shillings 6 billion and will run for 21 months with the scope of work requiring the contractor to construct slabs, wall and roofing given the funding gap.

The land hosting the proposed surgical complex was initially hosting the casualty ward and the Out Patient Department that were demolished.

This reduced the available space for patients which has since caused congestion in the hospital given the high number of patients the hospital serves. The complex will host 300 beds and nine theatres once completed.

PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi also questioned the hospital officials for allegedly hiding Shillings 586.9 billion received from UNICEF, Malaria Control and Rights-e since the money did not go to the Consolidated Fund as required by law.

The Auditor-General said that the action made it impossible to confirm compliance with the objectives of the donors.

MPs also learned that the hospital was grappling with stock-outs of tracer medicines with stock out ranging from one month to six months. The management blamed the stock out on the shortage of funding having submitted a budget of Shs 3.350 Bn but only Shs 1.486 Bn was released.

During the audit process, auditors discovered that although the hospital has three x-ray machines, only one was functional and the rest had since broken down and not been in use for 4 years and efforts to repair the machines had been futile prompting the medical team to send patients to nearby hospitals for the services.

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