Adjumani, (UG): The police in Adjumani District have swiftly swung into action and launched a protracted investigation following allegations of theft of drugs and other medical supplies from Ukusijoni Health Centre III in Ukusijoni Sub-county of the West Nile district.
The development comes after a complaint registered at Adjumani Central Police Station by the Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Grandfield Oryono following wild allegations of drug theft from the facility by aggrieved residents of Ukusijoni sub-county which has led to some arrests being made as investigations deepen.
DailyExpress has learnt that statements have been recorded from the in charge of Ukusijoni Health Center III Mr Lagu Raphael, MS Ayiokoru Joyce a midwife as well as the in-charge of the drug stores, Mr Idha Patrick Amaza – an enrolled nurse and Iceta Denis Onyibi a security guard.
Mr. Droma Alfred the assistant inventory management officer who carried out the drug audit in Ukusijoni Health Center III, was also interrogated by the police for several hours on Friday, November 10, 2023.
The report of Preliminary investigations carried out by the office of CAO shows that a consignment of Essential drugs and medical supplies was delivered at the health facility on October 11, 2023, by National Medical stores and the items were temporarily kept in a room pending verification by the designated stakeholders.
The report unearthed that when the verification team converged on October 16, 2023, they discovered that 12 packets out of the 84 delivered were missing, out of the 300 RDT Malaria testing kits 60 were missing while two out of the 15 determined HIV testing kits were found missing and 12 of the 140 mama kits were stolen.
The verification team that comprises that includes; the chairman of the District Health Management Unit, GISO (Gombolola Intelligence Security Officer) and the Village Chairperson among others estimates the value of the missing drugs and other supplies at shs 3.7m.
The Adjumani District Health Officer (DHO), Dr Drametu Dominic revealed to DailyExpress how it is very unfortunate that the health workers who are involved in the theft of drugs are much aware that the drug per capita in Uganda is less than shs 2.000, which he believes to be a conspiracy against poor people by the few privileged health workers in the district.
“I have no kind words and sympathy for health workers who pride in stealing government drugs because that is not what a health worker is trained for, we are trained to work and save lives even in dangerous and miserable working conditions but what is taking place is betrayal of our own people,” Dr. Drametu avowed.
The Adjumani District Police Commander, SSP Bwire Moses while addressing journalists on Monday, November 13, 2023, revealed that detectives following the case have retrieved vital documents in the cases and recorded statements from witnesses, the prime suspect Ms. Ayikoru Joyce a midwife who is also the in charge of stores was also interrogated but released on police bond pending the advice on the file by the resident state attorney.
SSP Bwire added that the file will be compiled and forwarded to the office of the resident state attorney upon the reconstruction of the crime scene by the police scene of crime officer (SOCO), probably by Tuesday (today), November 14, 2023.
This publication further learnt that on October 28, 2023, the Adjumani District Chairperson, Mr. Anyama convened a crisis meeting with all in charge of health centres after a whistle-blower briefed him of informed him of a racket of drug theft at Ukusijoni health facility.
During the meeting, Mr Anyama cautioned the in-charges against conspiring with their subordinates to steal government drugs and medical supplies and issued an ultimatum of 4 days for the office of DHO to investigate the allegations and furnish his office with the report.
In the same meeting, the infuriated Adjumani CAO Mr. Oryono warned that cases of theft of drugs cannot be handled administratively and ordered that the matters be reported to police for investigations with a view of prosecuting those found culpable.
The escalation of drugs was detected in 2021 when health staff in Mungula Health Centre IV were arrested by police over alleged theft of COVID-19 reagents and testing kits, they were charged in Adjumani court, but later acquitted for want of prosecution.
In 2022, the long-serving Adjumani Hospital Pharmacist, Mr Onigo Charles was arrested in a nocturnal police operation and a cache of coarterm anti-malaria drugs was recovered from his private car, he was produced before an anti-corruption court in Kampala, court found him guilty and convicted him accordingly, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment with an option of fine, he paid the fine and was released, his services have been terminated.
There is a serious ring of drug felons among health workers in Adjumani but the authority has kept a blind eye and paid deaf ears as most of the characters are those who have resisted transfers even after overstaying at the same station, officers who are natives of the same subcounty or village and the serious tail ends of the cartel are security guards, who falsely pretend working at home provides natural motivation.
Several other cases of drug thefts have been reported to authorities but the matters were swept under the carpet by either health management committees or elected leaders fearing political backlash for imprisoning and sacking their own keens man.
A legal expert here who sought anonymity said the government needs to employ exclusive and superior methods of criminal intelligence and investigations in a bid to burst the sophisticated drug racket as the customers appear to have mastered the illegitimate drug transaction.
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