By Spy Uganda
Members of Parliament on the Health Committee have rejected a supplementary request of Shs2.7 billion by the Ministry of Health to supervise the construction of the Lubowa International Specialized hospital tasking the ministry to present the status of the hospital.
The ministry requested that the supplementary budget be drawn from the US$ 10 million reimbursed by the World Bank to the Government of Uganda for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.
Legislators said it was unwise to approve such a request when there is no proof of any developments at the Lubowa Hospital site.
“Ever since we visited the Lubowa Hospital site, to date we have never received any feedback on where we are on this Shs14 trillion project that raised the hopes of Ugandans,” said Hon. George Bokha Didi (NRM, Obongi County).
The Health Ministry officials presented their request during the meeting with the committee on Thursday, 09 March 2023.
Hon. Florence Nebanda (NRM, Butaleja District) said the delayed implementation of the Lubowa project has caused mistrust from the public regarding the government’s commitment and interest in the project.
“The project was launched in 2019 on a two-year contract; the contractor is supposed to hand over the project to the government within 10 years but they are not on schedule and seem unbothered and we do not see value for money,” she said.
The H Minister for Health, Hon. Jane Ruth Aceng who could not disclose to the committee whether there were ongoing works at Lubowa said her ministry was mandated to carry out supervisory roles which were never budgeted for.
“When we are constructing a hospital, we normally have supervisors as consultants; we can either hire a consultancy firm or get a consortium of engineers. We were told that there was no money for hiring a firm; the money we are requesting for is to facilitate a consortium of contractors,” said Aceng.
She added that by the time the ministry engineers came in to supervise the project, the foundation of the hospital had been laid.
In a related development, the minister also requested the committee to approve an Shs14.7 billion supplementary budget for the ongoing rehabilitation of Mulago National Referral Hospital whose works commenced in 2013.
“Since 2013, we have been on rehabilitation of Mulago Hospital; by the time we finish, it will be old. Some of the equipment we provided are becoming obsolete,” she said.
There was a general approval by MPs to prioritize the completion of Mulago Hospital with the supplementary budget and defer other items such as payment of court fines and repair of medical equipment in the forthcoming budgeting cycle.
“I want to know how someone chooses court awards over Mulago when the government has lots of court cases that it has lost with pending payments,” said Kazo County MP, Hon. Dan Atwijukire.
The Committee Chairperson, Dr. Charles Ayume said basic necessities are lacking in Mulago Hospital despite the annual budgetary appropriations to the hospital.
“We cannot keep on going like that; out of six lifts only one is working, water is scarce; it comes dripping in the night and people have to fetch in jerry cans. We have invested money to put up VIP facilities that are non-functional; what will happen when a visiting president falls ill while here?” Ayume wondered.
Ayume said the committee has scheduled a meeting with Mulago Hospital officials and Roko contractors over the rehabilitation work at the hospital.
The ministry also requested for Shs3.6 billion for the rehabilitation and expansion of Busolwe Hospital, Shs6 billion for the repair and maintenance of oxygen plants said to have been overworked during the Covid-19 pandemic and Shs8 billion to clear outstanding allowances for Covid-19 staff.