As debate rages on the construction of a bunker to house the new cancer treatment machine at Mulago Hospital after the old one broke down, emerging evidence suggests that government has for the last three financial years been spending on the same facility.
This is contrary to what Elioda Tumwesigye, the Health Minister told parliament on April.12. Tumwesigye, who was presenting the ministerial statement, said that they were starting on the process of constructing the bunker, which would take six months, and required Shs. 30 billion, which had been released by Finance Ministry.
However, fresh details from ministerial statements reveal that the same ministry started the process of constructing the bunker in 2014 and received Shs. 1.2 billion, which was spent on construction of the same. In the following financial year, the ministry said they had planned to spend another Shs.5.3 billion on activities related to the bunker.
For example, in the ministerial policy statement for financial year 2014/15, Ministry of Health in its budget shows, procurement of a bunker, payment of designs and structures for the machine.
When one looks at the policy statement for the coming Financial Year 2016/17, Ministry of Health lists construction of a bunker among it’s continued activities, meaning the process has gone on, for the last 3 financial years, so why has the ministry taken it’s time?
The question is why is the minister now saying that they are starting the whole process afresh yet they have in the previous budgets received and spent money on the same? Where is this money?
Why does the bunker now cost 30 Billion, yet the ministry lists it for 5.3Billion in FY 2014/15. Where has the budget allocation been going to, for the last 3 financial years?
The collapse of the radio therapy machine and the controversy surrounding the lack of a bunker to house a new one have stirred a lot of controversy.
Uganda is one of the countries with a high growth rate of cancer and the lives of some 44,000 who are referred here every year from all over Uganda as well as from neighboring countries including Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
The machine that broke down was donated in 1995, and has required repair work on a number of occasions over the years. Radiotherapy is a treatment involving the use of high-energy radiation to target cancerous cells.
As if that isn’t enough bad news about the radiotherapy machine, Mr Deo , a Senior radiation protection officer for the Atomic energy council, while appearing before Parliament’s committee on Natural resources informed MPs that Mulago was operating the machine illegally, as they had failed to pay license fees amounting to 800,000 per year.
He added that the Radiation workers in Mulago are not being monitored yet they are being exposed to radiation, which is a massive problem and could not give Mulago a new license without addressing the safety measures raised.
Mr Deo, informed MPs that the already existing bunker is capable of housing the radio therapy machine as they construct the new bunker, which means patients would still be able to access treatment if the problem was the bunker.
Minister Baryomunsi while on the floor of Parliament yesterday, informed the house of the plan to take up to 400 patients to Agakhan in Nairobi for radiothreapy, but how will it be done? who gets to go? what money does Government plan to spend? All these questions were not answered.
As per the evidence, one-thing screams that Political heads either do not read documents written from their ministries, or someone has been quietly pocketing bunker money and is responsible for causing misery and pain as patients go home without treatment for the next 6 months.
Clearly, someone needs to resign.