Dr. Byarugaba Baterana, the former Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital has come under fire from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Central Government for diverting Sh 206 million meant for the allowances of medical interns and senior health officers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the 2020/2021 financial year, the government disbursed Sh3.8 billion to carter for the allowances of the intern doctors and senior health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, lawmakers and legislators were shocked that Sh206million out of the Sh 3.8 billion was spent on contact tracing, sample collection, case management, and surveillance of the pandemic.
The Committee Chairperson, Medard Sseggona asked Dr. Byarugaba whether contact tracing or case management was part of the job description of medical interns and the health workers.
He tasked Mulago Hospital management to produce bank statements, names, and contacts of the beneficiaries of the funds, adding that previous inquiries into such financial diversions pointed to fraud.
“We shall examine lists against bank statements,” Sseggona said.
Furthermore, Ssegona directed the hospital management to provide a letter from the Ministry of Finance allowing them to divert the funds.
Mary Begumisa, the Sembabule District Woman Representative observed that there was a need to ascertain if the funds were used for contact tracing, case management, and surveillance as alleged by the management.
“It is important that we sample a few recipients, call their phone numbers such that we see if you did not pay people who were seated in board rooms,” Bemugisa told the administrators. Tororo Woman MP, Sarah Achieng Opendi wondered if the money for medical interns and health workers was part of the reported COVID-19 relief funds that was unlawfully spent.
“We need to know if this was a request from Mulago Hospital. It was reported that there was a committee which would sit sometimes and send money without entities expecting it,” Opendi demanded.
Byarugaba was engulfed by prolonged silence, and could not convince the legislators how the money was diverted to aid contact tracing, case management, and surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Byarugaba was arrested in March after investigations by the Health Monitoring Unit linked him to mismanagement and causing financial loss of up to Sh28 billion.
He was released and later forced to hand over the office after 11 years of service at the facility.