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Committee selected to probe Minister Musenero over Covid-19 vaccine funds

ICT Minister Dr. Monica Musenero

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi has tabled before the House documentary evidence seeking to implicate the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero regarding the utilization of funds meant to facilitate the COVID-19 vaccine development.

This follows the MP’s verbal accusations made on the floor of parliament last week in which Musinguzi demanded for accountability of funds so far released towards the development of a vaccine under the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics-PRESIDE.

The Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics is a brainchild of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and is led by Dr. Musenero, who was a presidential advisor on epidemics at the time it was unveiled.

“Madam Speaker I want this House to recall, that in 2020, a certain group of scientists convinced the President that they could produce a vaccine for COVID-19. And indeed, they went ahead and drew big sums of money. In 2020 they drew 20 billion under the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics-PRESIDE,” Musinguzi then said.

Musinguzi further reported that during the current year, Dr. Musenero also received 50 billion Shillings after convincing the President that she would ensure the production of a vaccine.

These statements by the MP last week prompted the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among to direct Musinguzi to present documentary evidence about the matter and she also directed Minister Musenero to appear before Parliament on Tuesday to provide a response and also provide the House with the status of the vaccine development.

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However, the Minister did not turn up as scheduled, instead asking Parliament through the Minister of State for Finance- General Duties, Henry Musasizi to appeal for more time on her behalf, so that she presents her statement on Thursday.

In her absence, Deputy Speaker Among asked MP Musinguzi to proceed with the tabling of documentary evidence and among the documents he tabled is the budget of 31 billion Shillings that was appropriated to PRESIDE. According to Musinguzi, this money was then channeled to different individual scientists who have allegedly denied receiving the funds.

Musinguzi told parliament that amidst this questionable expenditure, PRESIDE is now seeking an additional budget of 50 billion Shillings towards the vaccine manufacture.

Musinguzi further reported that: “….Supplementary Expenditure for financial year 2021/2022, they are writing to the Auditor General’s office to finance recurrent and development activities under various institutions. In that demand, there is funding for vaccine manufacture (PRESIDE), 50.4 billion.”

He also cited the special audit report on Covid-19 related funding by the Auditor General in which he queried activities of PRESIDE.

Also tabled by MP Musinguzi is a letter dated 15th March, 2021 authored by OO Obongo, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology, writing to Dr. Musenero, then Senior Presidential Advisor on Epidemics to give accountability for 31 billion.

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Musinguzi also asked the Deputy Speaker to avail him security, saying that last week he was trailed by unknown people after raising the matter for the first time.

In response, Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi raised a procedural issue asking that the matter is referred to the Public Accounts Committee-PAC Central Government to go through the documents and report back to Parliament in the next three days.

However, Deputy Speaker Among declined the request saying that she had seen the PAC chairperson Medard Lubega Sseggona interested in the issue. She then directed the Minister of Internal Affairs Gen. Kahinda Otafire to avail MP Musinguzi with security.

Among also noted that she would appoint a select committee on Wednesday with terms of reference to consider the matter.

Igara West MP, Gaffa Mbwatekamwa also appealed that the select committee also investigates different presidential initiatives.

Busiro East MP, Medard Lubega Ssegona said that a lot had been said about Minister Musenero in her absence including matters touching her family. He appealed that Dr. Musenero is provided an opportunity to defend herself.

Deputy Speaker Among then formally moved a motion for setting up a select committee, which was approved by the MPs. She emphasized that the terms of reference would be provided on Wednesday.

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