Lubowa hospital 'impunity' leaves MPs frustrated

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Lubowa hospital 'impunity' leaves MPs frustrated
Ssenyonyi speaks to a police officer at the site

The legislators were blocked from accessing the facility, leaving Ssenyonyi asking Parliament to pronounce itself on the wastage of public funds.

KAMPALA | A CCTV camera installed at a premise can mean many things and for Lubowa International Specialised Hospital, it is probably a sign that the contractor is at large.

The surveillance camera and the boots deployed at the premises stuck out as the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Joel Ssenyonyi, led a group of Opposition legislators on an inspection of the controversial health facility.

The legislators were blocked from accessing the facility, leaving Ssenyonyi asking Parliament to pronounce itself on the wastage of public funds.

He wants the house to halt any further disbursements to Lubowa hospital.

The hospital has been under construction since 2019 when the government first released funds for it and the most recent is the Shs2.7bn for supervision.

But the state of affairs was brought into the spotlight on February 15 when NBS published pictures of the deserted and ghostly nature of the construction site.

The flying drone and revealing pictures is what drew the LoP to carry out oversight on the project.

At exactly 10:30am, Ssenyonyi and other opposition legislators were at the gate knocking for access.

But a security officer whose name tag read Mugisha poked his face through a small window at the gate and told Ssenyonyi to get permission from DPC and other authorities.

As the MPs persisted, Mugisha asked if they had sought permission from the "madam in charge of the hospital" to visit the facility, leaving the legislators baffled.

"Did you ask for permission from our Madam?" Mugisha asked.

"Who is your madam? We are parliament and this is taxpayers money," Ssenyonyi said.

Another officer, ASP Salama Namutosi, arrived with security and questioned why the Leader of Opposition had not copied in the IGP and other authorities in his letter to access the site.

"Go write to relevant authorities like the ministry, copy in IGP and we shall clear you," she said.

"But Parliament does not ask police to guide how it does its work. This is oversight, we as parliament put taxpayers money here," Ssenyonyi said.

Moments later, the UPDF was deployed. Ssenyonyi then moved to make an inquiry from them but in vain.

Again, it was time for another deployment. Security was reinforced. These had no time but to assure the MPs that access was impossible.

"We the police are in charge of this premise so go and deal with the other authorities," DPC Charles Nsaba said.

Ssenyonyi now says they want to persuade Parliament to stop any more funds being given to the 'ghost' hospital.

"We return to Parliament with a report on these activities," he said.

"We ascertain, there is nothing here at this hospital site. We are going to ask Parliament to stop any further disbursement of funds to this project. It is not even worth the Shs476bn so far invested [in it]."

The MPs have been left frustrated and want the entire institution of Parliament to rein in Italian investor Enrica Pinetti, the project contractor.

"We are frustrated as MPs, as Ugandans and as parliament as an institution. We declined to give that project money and government cut other budgets to fund it," said Karim Masaba, MP for Mbale Industrial Division.

Mityana District Woman MP Joyce Bagala wondered why the public has to deal with Pinetti in so many sectors.

"Pinetti wants a hospital, then she wants to take over coffee now she is troubling tea growers. Is she a super human?" she asked.

Pinetti has subcontracted a Portuguese company, Technovia, for the works. These were expected to have started work on January 15 but they were faced with operational challenges and are not yet on site.

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