BY INNOCENT ATUGANYIRA & MUSINGUZI GOODLUCK RONALD
MASINDI: Tuesday, August 03, 2021
At least three out of the four members of parliament (MP) from Masindi district have used part of the sh200m meant for procuring personal vehicles to supplement government’s efforts in the health sector by procuring ambulances and emergency vehicles to support the health care system at Sub County , Constituency and District.
When Covid19 spread across the World shutting economies, affecting the supply of essential services , the Ministry of Health had built capacities at different levels.
However, the health system needed a helping hand from well wishers, it met the health centers at the lower level had to refer Covid19 positive patients to district hospitals or Regional Referral Hospitals.
The government of Uganda called upon the general public to contribute cars directly or indirectly so that the country was able to fight the pandemic.
One of those people that decided to boost the capacity of health care systems is the Member of Parliament for Bujenje Constituency in Masindi District.
Kenneth Nyendwoha, the MP for Bujenje constituency, is the latest to boost the district health department with purchase of three emergency service vehicles.
“I will be paying the driver and servicing the vehicle, people can fuel the vehicle and transport patients to bigger hospitals for better services, and this will reduce the expenses of hiring a private vehicles,” he said.
The three vehicles have cost sh95m and the legislator said a fourth one would arrive in the course of the week.
Nyendwoha said he was concerned by the challenge of evacuating patients, more especially pregnant mothers, to either Masindi hospital or Hoima regional referral hospital.
He expects his contribution to help in saving the lives of expectant mothers and other patients in the constituency.
The three vehicles will be staged in the sub counties of Bwijanga, Bulima and Nyatonzi.
Nyendwoha has asked people to utilize the vehicles and continue observing the standard operating procedures to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the country.
Dr. Patrick Baguma, the Masindi district health officer uploaded the MPs for the vehicles saying that they will boost the work of the health department in the district by solving the puzzle of evacuating patients to the referral hospitals.
“The district had only one ambulance, but now we have three ambulances and three emergency vehicles. This eases our work,” he asserted.
The public at large, through the media and other avenues, was up in arms over media reports that the Parliamentary Commission had allocated Ushs 10 billion during the disbursement of supplementary funds intended to facilitate the fight against Covid-19 in Uganda.
The Supplementary budget, which was passed by Parliament in 2020, was intended to facilitate different organs of Government (publicly funded entities) to provide emergency response services to the pandemic.
Parliament, from the onset, came out strongly to participate in the fight against Covid-19, through first of all, taking precautionary measures as an institution; providing a fleet of official vehicles with drivers to the Ministry of Health to transport health workers all over the country; highlighting, debating and adopting a well prepared report on the impact of Covid-19 on the Economy; nominating Members of Parliament to serve on the National Task Force on Covid-19 and provision of private vehicles (ambulances) by some Members of Parliament to the Ministry of Health at their own cost.
After Government raised the red flag on the Covid-19 pandemic, the Speaker of Parliament then , Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, named a Parliament Technical Taskforce on Covid-19, comprising of Members of Parliament to support the National taskforce, and provide oversight to the management of the pandemic countrywide. This was necessary, given the substantial amount of public funds allocated in the Supplementary.
It is important to note, at this point, that the Constitution of Uganda, under Article 164(3) gives Parliament the mandate to oversee/monitor expenditure of all public funds. As such after the approval of the Supplementary of Ushs 304 billion, it was only automatic that oversight is provided because the large amount of funds are to be expended in a short span of time.
It is a fallacy, therefore, to state that Parliament must wait until an exercise has been completed before they can conduct their oversight mandate. Otherwise, this would mean closing Parliament until July or some other time at the end of the financial year or even only after the Auditor General has done his work. Parliamentary oversight is continuous.
The Parliament Technical Task Force on Covid-19, has in the course of its work, visited and assessed the readiness of health facilities to manage Covid-19. Additionally, during the visits, it has assessed awareness levels of the district leadership and communities about Covid-19; interacted with different teams in the areas they have visited to sort out underlying issues which may affect managing health crises; assessed the impact of funds allocated to different districts to the needs on the ground, and assessed the readiness of health facilities to ably handle cases of other long standing and pre-existing health conditions which are not necessarily Covid-19.
The Parliament Covid-19 Technical Taskforce will also assess the state and welfare of the medical workers as they deliver the essential services and ensure that all medical workers across the country are catered for in as far as Personal Protective Equipment goes.
To date, the Committee has already been to Busia, Malaba, Kabale, Ntungamo, Mbarara, Jinja and Tororo. The Committee is expected to give regular reports to Parliament about the assessment visits. The Parliament Technical Taskforce will obviously not be able to visit all areas, but will rely on their colleagues to gather information on what is happening on the ground.
Lastly, about 200 Members of Parliament voluntarily offered their private ambulances, to be used by the Ministry of Health to transport patients and health workers to different health facilities around the country during the Covid-19 crisis. The Speaker of Parliament has widely spoken about this matter.
It is no open secret that MPs are the first point of call before any government interventions are implemented in constituencies. Members of Parliament are under so much pressure to deliver and need to respond to issues raised in their constituencies before government reaches them, and is exactly what is happening with the Covid-19 pandemic. The interventions being handled by Members of Parliament go way beyond the Ushs 20 million that has been deliberately misunderstood.
Lastly, for Parliament to sit and conduct business under the current circumstances is a service to ensure that the country functions.