Lubowa hospital funds reported missing

Artistic impression of Lubowa International Specialized Hospital

Artistic impression of Lubowa International Specialized Hospital

Parliament has started investigating reports that more than Shs 140 billion set aside for the construction of the Lubowa International Specialized Hospital has gone missing.

In March this year, parliament approved a guarantee of $379 million (about Shs 1.4 trillion) for the construction of the hospital in Lubowa, Wakiso district. The project is a brainchild of Enrica Pinetti an Italian investor of Finasi-Roko Construction SPV Limited, an entity which specializes in the construction of turnkey health care facilities is behind the project.          

The Ugandan government agreed to finance the firm to construct and run the specialized facility and payback within eight years from the commencement of operations. The facility with a 264-bed specialized healthcare capacity will be operated as a world-class internationally accredited facility to treat conditions for which Ugandans have been travelling abroad.

The conditions include cancer treatment, heart diseases, organ transplant, fertility treatment, highly specialized surgeries, and bone marrow transplant, among others. Now, Soroti Municipality MP Herbert Ariko told parliament this afternoon that the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank released Shs 327 billion on May 16 to finance the project. However, he added that Stanbic bank, where the money was transferred to, only released Shs 188 billion.    

According to Ariko, the missing funds amounting to Shs 140 billion ($37 million) of the Shs 327 billion, has already gone missing. He asked parliament to monitor and evaluate the hospital project step by step and review Eng Francis Wakabi whose contract is still running despite a recommendation for its termination.     

"So far work has began, where has the $37m gone? Madam speaker this parliament required a strict schedule of disbursement of this money, can we request the minister of Health to provide this parliament with a strict breakdown of signatories and disbursement of this money? Madam speaker, secondly, the committee did not get to interface with the direct implementers of the project - that is Finasi International and Roko Construction." said Ariko. 

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga asked the parliamentary Health Committee to invite the investor to explain the shortfall. She also asked the government to give a detailed schedule on the plan for the construction of the hospital and its phases. 

"Our work is not just on budgeting, but we’re supposed to be monitoring those sectors and even on our own we can cause a meeting. So can we ask the committee on Health to actually invite those [contractors]. I also heard that they did not come to defend the proposal here. So can we ask the committee on Health to invite them to give us an update at the earliest opportunity and also the minister of Finance and give us the timelines for the actual action plans." Kadaga said. 

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd