KAMPALA – The shortage of essential medicines and supplies in health facilities around the country caused an intense rattling between two ministers – Jane Ruth Aceng (Health) and Henry Musasizi (state-Finance) on Wednesday as Parliament convened under the supervision of deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa.
Dr Aceng attributed the shortage to lack of funds to enable National Medical Stores – NMS ensure timely delivery but Musasizi could wasn’t amused to hear such.
According to Dr Aceng – the Finance ministry directive in Financial Year 2019/2020 that all monetary transactions of NMS be effected through the IFMS (Integrated Financial Management System), took away its flexibilities.
She added that NMS was unable to have funds required for delivery of medicines and medical supplies by the first day of every quarter, yet such deliveries were a continuous process that should not stop.
“With specific reference to this financial year, actual funds for the first quarter were not available to NMS until August 2022. In the second quarter, funds were not available until the first week of November 2022,” said Aceng – adding: “It has also been noted that Ministry of Finance, in honouring payments, usually picks out some and leaves others.
“In most cases, those left have a direct effect on delivery of essential medicines and medical supplies, which frustrates service delivery.”
She noted that the Ministry of Finance insisted that the funds are first deposited in the Consolidated Fund which she said has made NMS unable to deliver medicines and supplies from development partners including ARVS and anti-malarias.
“Once such funds are deposited in the Consolidated Fund at the end of the financial year, the funds are forfeited instead of continuing to deliver medicines and supplies which are already in the warehouse,” said Aceng.
Aceng also cited erosion of available resources resulting from Ebola distribution activities, as well as inadequate budgeting amidst increased distribution costs especially on fuel prices.
But Musasizi in defence – noted that the Integrated Financial Management System was provided for by the Public Finance Management Act, adding that NMS was not an exceptional vote to receive funding differently.
“NMS does not want to belong to IFMS. As long as you are a vote, you must comply with the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act,” he noted.
Musasizi noted the need for timely quarterly releases to NMS and other votes for effective budget execution.
He added that the Ministry of Finance had advised the National Medical Stores to adopt quarterly resource planning and make use of the prepayments and advances functionality on IFMS.
This, Musasizi said, will promptly process payments for suppliers and other payments.
“We have recommended to NMS to use the contracting frameworks that ease medicines transportation,” said Musasizi.
The Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa noted that the issue wouldn’t have been handled before parliament – directing the Prime Minister to hold an urgent meeting with the two ministries.
“If two Ministries do not agree, this should have gone to the Prime Minister. Whereas you are disagreeing and talking about your systems, people are dying because they are being denied essential medicines,” Observed Tayebwa.
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