Uganda’s Health System – Victim of Corruption and General Institutional Malady
There is one thing that the Uganda health system shares with other institutional Government frameworks within the country – Corruption. It is not that the health sector is the most corrupt, but we cannot just blame the health sector for a ‘few failures’ made by the technocrats there, when other government departments have stolen more than they can hide. Take the case of the Ministry of Local government, for instance, 401 (four hundred and one) identity cards were procured for the cost of $100 million. These 401 ID’s are so few that they would not even be enough for one Ugandan government department.
Then there is a case of a Ugandan former minister of information and national guidance, Princess Kabakumba Mastiko who was acquitted by the solicitor general of stealing a Uganda Television mast. The poor lady, being a Minister of information and in charge of the national broadcaster (Uganda broadcasting cooperation), shifted one of the masts to the service of her personal radio station. The contention in the general public is still that she stole, despite her reprieve from the ruling party leaning solicitor general.
Not only did she disappoint the appointing authority, she was forced to resign her ministerial post. The president said, “Why didn’t she tell me that she owns a radio station”, perhaps it could have been easy defending her at an informed point and knowing the purpose for which her radio station served."
But even the ever supporting members of the ruling party could have none of her pleas for innocence.
In Uganda’s transport sector, road construction continues to be justified as the most expensive. Not that they use pieces of crushed diamonds to build the roads. They are just the same roads. The only difference is that these roads are narrow and develop potholes immediately they are handed back to the government of Uganda.
Uganda’s poor performance with the Global Fund money for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria is still fresh in the memories of many. The Big know victim, despite the many millions lost, was Sseezi Cheye, a one time anti-corruption confidant of the Ugandan president stationed at State House. The poor man is rotting in Luzira maximum prison for stealing global fund money, which many in the Ministry of Health are to blame for management.
Then there comes the Global Alliance Against Vaccine (GAVI) funds for which former ministers, Capt. Mike Mukula, Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi and Dr. Alex Kamugisha were accused of embezzling. A former ministry of health accounting officer Muhammad Kezaala convincingly told the Anti-Corruption Court that the three former health ministers; Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi, Capt. Mike Mukula and Dr Alex Kamugisha, did not steal GAVI money
These former ministers have constantly trekked in and out of courts. They are at least being cunning with it. They have tried to delay the process through seeking this and that interpretation from the constitutional court. But time will tell whether even a penny will ever be recovered from them. Since they have been very powerful allies of the Ugandan president in the past, the courts may soon find them with no case to answer.
The most disturbing aspect of corruption in Uganda is that, it is closest to the confidants of the president. At a Bank of Uganda lecture attended by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and a professor of Economics at Columbia University, one of Museveni’s greatest political Economy Critics Professor Mahmood Mamdan, reminded him to his face that, “Uganda’s wealth is in the preserve of a clique of a few confidants of the current regime.”
Of course the professor was reiterating what is common knowledge in Uganda. That corruption and presumed wealth rotates among the relatives, friends and in-laws of the president. The president replied in a suppressed form of bitterness that, at least his regime has succeeded in creating that wealth which is now a preserve of those few that control it in Uganda. That summarises the spirit with which corruption is being fought, in a country, which the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill referred to as the Pearl of Africa.
It therefore comes as no surprise that health facilities in Uganda are in a sorry state, medicines are not in hospitals, doctors are complaining and need a bare minimum of salary to sustain their livelihoods and some districts like Kalangala do not have fulltime doctors. And all this while, the technocrats at the Ministry of Health, steal a little.