State Minister of Health-General Duties, Sarah Achieng Opendi has told the public to blame Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development for the current stock out of Polio Vaccines in the country.
While making a statement on the floor of Parliament over polio vaccine stock outs, minister Opendi said that Vaccines are delivered monthly at the beginning of the month to districts by the National Medical stores. However beginning this financial year in July, NMS could not deliver the vaccines because of the new directive from the Ministry of Finance.
On March 27, 2018, the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi wrote to NMS informing them that effective FY 2018/19, NMS was to operate as a Ministries Departments & Agencies (MDAs).
“The implication of this is that NMS must wait for funds to be sent to their account by the MOFPED. Whereas NMS has funds on its accounts at Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic Bank including Bank of Uganda, the Accountant General, on 4th July 2018, directed NMS that payments can only be made on Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and thus cannot be made from these Accounts,” Opendi said.
She added, “The NMS cannot operate as an MDA and effectively deliver on its mandate which is to efficiently procure medicines and other medical supplies, and distribute them to health facilities across the country. NMS Operations are Supply Chain Operations and any delays in availability of funds will grind the system to a halt, resulting in the stock outs of Essential Medicines and other Health Supplies (EMHS), which negatively affects service delivery.”
The NMS was created by an Act of parliament, the PERD Act and is supposed to operate as an autonomous Institution.
“Rt. Hon. Speaker, we have engaged the Ministry of Finance on this matter as seen from the letter to the Accountant General from the General Manager, NMS dated 16th July 2018 and another dated 6th July 2018 to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health. Hon. Jane Aceng Minister of Health has had a meeting with the PS/ST over the same in vain,” she said.
Opendi added that NMS has had to comply with the directive of the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to the Treasury and Accountant General, adding that if it is not rescinded then the situation of drug stock outs is likely to get worse as we move along.
“The Development Partners such as USAID, UMCEF and others, that deliver commodities to NMS, and support NMS with service charge to deliver these Items to health facilities, in principle, will not pay the service charge in the Consolidated Fund,” Opendi said.
The issue of polio vaccine stock out was last week raised by Prossy Akampulira, Woman MP, Rubanda district who said that she had taken her baby for vaccination against polio at Nakasero Hospital and was informed that the vaccines were out of stock. She then took the child to another facility within Kampala and found the same challenge. She also indicated that other clinics within Kampala too had stock outs.