Journalists blocked from sh 31b Musenero probe

musenero

Dr. Monica Musenero on the floor of parliament (courtesy photo)

Journalists were on Friday locked out of the select committee probing the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero regarding the utilization of funds meant to facilitate the COVID-19 vaccine development.

This followed a request by Dr. Musenero that the presentations on the status of the ongoing Covid-19 vaccine research be heard by MPs in camera because they need to protect intellectual property.

The Minister who was accompanied by her lawyer Allan Nshimye from Nshimye and Company Advocates and other technical officials told the MPs that she would avail a comprehensive written response to all questions raised by MPs regarding the utilization of funds and development of a Covid-19 vaccine next week.

Following Dr. Musenero’s submission, the Select Committee Vice Chairperson Xavier Kyooma Akampurira said that the section of the presentation largely covers the research being undertaken that needs to be protected. He however said that the media would be allowed to cover issues of accountability.

The committee comprising of Butambala Woman MP Aisha Kabanda, Bukooli Central MP Solomon Silwany, Otuke North MP Paul Omara, and Nwoya County MP Tony Awany were recently named by Deputy Speaker Anita Among to establish the progress in the development of a locally manufactured COVID-19 vaccine, establish the amount of money released for the research and others.

The other terms of reference are establishing the innovation and COVID-19 vaccine development, establishing how effective such funds have been utilized, and establishing challenges faced in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines.

The investigation stems from documentary evidence tabled before Parliament on Tuesday by Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi seeking to implicate Musenero regarding the utilization of funds meant to facilitate the COVID-19 vaccine development.

Musinguzi demanded accountability of funds so far released towards the development of a vaccine under the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE) a brainchild of President Yoweri Museveni led by Dr. Musenero, who was a Presidential Advisor on Epidemics at the time it was unveiled.

Among documents tabled before parliament by Musinguzi 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.

Also tabled by MP Musinguzi is a letter dated March 15, 2021, authored by OO Obongo, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry Science, and Technology, writing to Dr. Musenero, to give accountability for 31 Billion Shillings.

Musinguzi appeared before the Committee on Thursday and formally presented his claim and documents before the investigating team.

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