The Minister of State for Health, Sarah Opendi has said that contrary to reports of shortage of polio vaccine in the country, there are adequate quantities of the vaccine in the National Medical Stores (NMS).
She however said the challenge is that NMS cannot release the vaccine following a new directive from the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development (MOFPED).
Opendi said that in a letter dated 27 March, 2018, MOFPED directed that with effect from 1 July, 2018, NMS would operate like other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“The implication of this directive is that NMS must wait for funds to be sent to their account by MOFPED,” said Opendi.
She added that whereas NMS has funds in its accounts in Standard Chartered Bank , Stanbic Bank and Bank of Uganda, the Accountant General directed NMS that payments can only be made under the Integrated Financial Management Information System and therefore cannot be made from the accounts.
She said that attempts to get the MOFPED to reconsider its directive have been futile and as such, operations of NMS have been greatly affected because they are supply chain operations.
“NMS cannot operate as MDA and effectively deliver on its mandate which is to efficiently procure medicine and other medical supplies, and distribute them to health centres across the country,” said Opendi.
She added that the directive of the MOFPED was against a decision of Parliament that adopted the report of the Committee of Health which recommended that the status quo of NMS financial operations should be maintained until an evaluation is made by Parliament.
Opendi was responding to a concern on the availability of polio vaccine during plenary sitting on 17 July, 2018.
The Chairperson of the Health Committee, Hon. Michael Bukenya (Bukuya County, NRM) warned of drug stock outs if the directive by MOFPED is not reversed.
“We thought issues to do with medicines needed special attention and therefore recommended that the status quo should be maintained. We are not comfortable with what the Ministry of Finance is doing,” said Bukenya.
The Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, David Bahati maintained that the new directive cannot affect the operations of NMS.
“It is good for government agencies to operate from one portal. It encourages efficiency, transparency and accountability,” said Bahati.