Health ministry woes: Officials fight to control billions for purchasing AIDS, Malaria drugs

Prof. Mbonye thought court redress to save his job. PML Daily photo.

Controlling donor projects worth billions of shillings is deepening the rift among officials in the Health ministry.

PML Daily has learnt that Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng,  ministry’s Permanent secretary Dr Diana Atwine,  and Prof. Anthony Mbonye, the embattled acting director general health services, are fighting to control $5.2m (about Shs187.2b).

Highly placed sources in the ministry also revealed that the three top officials are battling over Shs100b government allocates to National Medical Stores, Entebbe, to purchase anti-retrovial drugs and anti-malaria drugs.

“Mbonye was the principal investigator of the project and one Dr Kirungi was the technical manager of the $5.2m project. When Aceng and her group took over, they appointed Atwine as the principal investigator, at the same time business official. This was a conflicting role, with no checks and balance,”a source revealed.

Take on battles
The battles in the ministry were silent for months until an internal memo issued by Atwine ordering Mbonye to immediately vacate office confirmed to the staff at the ministry that the top officials have been engaged in silent war. This opened the battle lines to other staff members.

In the memo, Atwine ordered Mbonye to return to his previous position as the Director of Health Services (Clinical and Community).

IGG office involved
Sources also explained that the IGG’s office was drawn into the ministry’s woes. Justice Irene Mulyagonja investigated and she accused Mbonye of conflict of interest when he determined the personal specifications for the position of the director general of health services, a position he was interested in and applied for.

Health ministry’s Permanent secretary Dr Diana Atwine.

The IGG’s probe followed whistle blower’s complaints accusing Mbonye of conflict of interest. According to IGG, Mbonye was not fit to be shortlisted for the position, insisting that he should have relinquished his current senior position before applying for the job of director.

When Mbonye was contacted in the morning, he said the IGG did not find any fault with him, adding that he consulted the permanent secretary on the decisions he took.

“But the report has very many contradictions, which I am hopefully, it will be quashed,” he said.

Mbonye did not have kind words for Atwine and Aceng, saying they are battling him because of inferiority complex.

“I am senior to them in the profession yet they are my bosses. Because of inferiority complex, they want me to leave,” Mbonye revealed.

Other worried official said anybody who is seen to interfere with their scheme to manage projects will be hounded and thrown out at all costs using the Police.

Aceng is accused of vowing that Mbonye will never be confirmed as director general, as long as she is the minister.
Aceng, however, denied involvement in the battles with her colleagues at the ministry.

State House battles extended to health ministry
Before crossing to the ministry, Atwine, when she was heading the Health Monitoring Unit at State House, a source said she was not logger heads with Lucy Nakyobe, State House controller and a wife to Mbonye.

“Everyone working for the President knows that Nakyobe and Atwine were not seeing eye to eye. The reason is Atwine and her group tried to remove her from her position but the President refused. The same group is now targeting her husband,” a State House source revealed.

Senior Staff resigned
Many senior staff at the ministry have resigned in protest.These include Dr. Jacinto Amandua (commissioner Clinical services) , Andrew Abunyang (Commissioner human resources) and Dr Paul Kaggwa (commissioner community health).

After attending several meetings where the two powerful ladies reportedly insulted staff, the newly posted assistant commissioner accounts asked for immediate transfer.

Dr. Jim Arinaitwe, the coordinator for Global Fund projects, refused to renew his contract citing harassment from the minister.

Dr Vincent Bagambe also refused to renew his contract citing harassment from the minister. Johnson Musinguzi the procurement officer asked for immediate transfer and was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. Mildred Bahemuka also asked for immediate transfer to another ministry.

Health minister Dr Ruth Aceng. PML Daily photo.

What next?
As a result of their harassment, an insider said more senior staff are considering leaving the ministry to join other organisations.

“There is low absorption of funds, staff are demoralized and there is a slow sit down strike. Staff speak in whispers, already two camps are established at the ministry; the balokole, non-balakole, the pro- Atwine, pro-Jane Aceng and pro-Sarah Opendi camps,” the source said.

Stories are told of how they held night meetings to join balokole in order to capture the heart of the first lady and the President. They had to get close to Pastor Lwere.

Who is to blame?
Some policy analysts are blaming President Museveni for appointing junior officials to run big offices at the ministry.

“Because of politics, the President appoints junior people in the profession to run big offices. He picks them from the hospitals. Do you expect highly qualified officials at the ministry to respect them? I doubt,” a senior policy analyst argued.

However, some officials said President Museveni was concerned about the state of health care in the country.
“He wanted reforms, unfortunately he appointed less experienced people,” a source added.

The Civil Division court last week issued a permanent injunction stopping Prof. Mbonye’s dismissal until investigations are complete.



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