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Atwine admits to diverting health funds, flouting procurement rules

Ministry of Health PS Diana Atwine

Ministry of Health PS Diana Atwine

The permanent secretary of ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine has admitted to flouting several procurement procedures and rules when she diverted money while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Atwine says, she did this in the interest of Uganda and in an attempt to save lives. 

Atwine's remarks were in response to the Auditor General's 2019/20 financial year report, which implicated the ministry for diverting over Shs 10.5 billion and Shs 2.95 billion from budgeted activities without approval or following the right procedures and procurement guidelines and rules. The AG also faulted the ministry for failure to conduct quality checks on the procured ICU equipment worth Shs 26 billion, face masks worth Shs 26 billion and other lab testing equipment for COVID-19. 

The AG's report states that procurements were delivered before being approved by the contracts committee or signing contracts with suppliers. In some cases, procurements were started without the availability of funds, funds were diverted and often unaccounted for. The report also highlights instances where the ministry delayed issuing appointment or deployment letters to engaged staff, and to pay staff allowances to individuals.

Atwine says that during the pandemic she had to make hard decisions to save the lives of Ugandans. She says some of the decisions were important and could not wait for the right procurement procedure to be followed.

"I diverted money not to go to my personal pocket, but I made a decision in the interest to save a life. If I’m buying equipment, ICU equipment to put in hospitals such that those who are badly off, who need oxygen get the oxygen, and the supplier or manufacturer says; sorry I cannot give you until you have paid 100% so that I manufacture. Now according to our laws, you don’t give but this money I’m giving is guaranteed, the supplier makes sure that they provide the guarantee so that I pay this money. But when that thing is written in the report, someone doesn’t put it into context under what circumstances I’m making this decision in order to save a life," said Atwine. 

One of the procurements made but still awaiting payment is the purchase of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines at Shs 18.3 billion despite the money being passed and approved by parliament last year. The government requested for the money, saying it was needed urgently as a downpayment for the vaccines. In total government says it needs about Shs 500 billion for the COVID-19 vaccines for the entire population. 

"Unlike in other epidemics where Uganda had support from developing partners, this time around it was not possible. The same people who give us money were addressing the same problem at home. We had to depend on our coffers and that was not easy. It's not like we had this money with us on our accounts but refused to pay. We did not have money," she said.

Today March 21 marks one year since Uganda reported its first COVID-19 case. Dr Atwine says that she had no other alternative but to reallocate money and put it to better use than it was originally intended for. She says she had to get money originally budgeted for fuel and trips abroad to respond to the pandemic.

"In the response, we had to reallocate money although you know according to the law you’re diverting and you’re discharging. But I can assure you I put that money to better use even when I did not have enough to spend but I was able to put money to better use, but I can assure you it did more work. It saved more lives and for me, that is the most important thing. If in the face of this pandemic we’re able to get money that was meant for fuel and moving all over the place and you buy supplies that save a life of somebody who is badly off, for me am happy about that," she added. 

In light of the ongoing pandemic, Atwine says the Auditor General needs to take into account the circumstances under which some decisions were made.

"People fail to understand the changing times, the times we’re in, in a pandemic, in an emergence response you do not behave. If you’re going to save a burning house, you do not go like you’re going to a kwanjula [traditional wedding], the approach is different but our population or some of our people did not understand. That how do you give advance of 100%, yes I give because first of all, I’m working with PPDA to make sure that we stay within the law but at the same time ensure that we do the right thing in the interest of the country, in the interest of the people we want to save in the hospital," Atwine said. 


+4 #1 rubangakene 2021-03-21 18:54
These are grave issues where you have to collaborate with cabinet and colleagues before making decisions; it is a matter of life and death.

You have to be more specific of why you made those decisions. You are not "God" to tell us you saved Ugandans from dying; tell us how many lives you have saved and how many are still dying even from less serious diseases apart from Covid 19. Who got the 10%?
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+10 #2 Lysol 2021-03-21 20:08
The corrupt regime is rotten to the core.

Those people are like the broad day-light robbers, without the feeling of shame or guilt. In other countries they would be hanged.
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+4 #3 juwait kali 2021-03-21 20:08
Why even bother about these stories, this people are now intitled after winning the election despite corruption and daylight murders.

Kizito Lwanga will attend the swearing in ceremony and that will be that. It's a good time to hail from western, its also a permanent privilege as no one can remove them from power!!!!!!
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+5 #4 Ibra 2021-03-21 20:29
This is what you call state looting - PS spending public money without authorisation.

This can only happen in a banana republic - lack of accountability and transparency. Sh 26 billion spent on face coverings -for whom?

Yet Ordinary people Without masks were being beaten up by the ‘killer cops’ for spreading the pandemic.

How did the PS get the priorities wrong - getting budget approval (sh 18 billion) for the Covid vaccination ahead of the other urgent needs. It’s just a cover for looting public funds by state agents with impunity.
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+2 #5 ugthinker 2021-03-22 00:25
they are as fraudulent as they come, all in the name of saving us!
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+3 #6 Lakwena 2021-03-22 08:14
Although they are killing Ugandans with ear to ear smiles in their faces, they all speak the same language "saving lives".

E.g. in 1981, our self-confessed "Problem of Africa, Author and Master of Violence", Gen Tibuhaburwa went to the Luweero of Luweero in order to save lives. As a result hundreds of thousands of lives and properties were lost

On 18th and 19th November 2020, in order save lives, he ordered the massacre of over 54 innocent Ugandans on the streets of Kampala

In other words, not forgetting the Global & GAVI Funds; being "diversionary" is one of the Atwine of this country's methods of saving the lives of Ugandans.

Eish, wachireba?
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+1 #7 Kijjambo 2021-03-22 12:45
Thanks all.
My input is that according to the situation, lets look at it as pandemic and the Auditors save us the PPDA Act but what can't be ignored and where we expect you to add value is whether the items claimed to have been bought were actually bought, delivered and received and utilised by the beneficiaciries.

Secondly, reasonal value for money ie the pricesVs market prices
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+3 #8 Eric L 2021-03-22 15:32
Atwine is a regime goon masquarading as a civil servant. Her role at the ministry includes intelligence gathering and diversion of funds for her person and also to the thieving party in structures and for individuals of the same.
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+2 #9 Mulema Jalia 2021-03-23 07:19
Do you know why Atwine was appointed PS? She acts on orders from above to loot taxpayers money. Period
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+2 #10 Lakwena 2021-03-23 08:00
Quoting Eric L:
Atwine is a regime goon masquarading as a civil servant. Her role at the ministry includes intelligence gathering and diversion of funds for her person and also to the thieving party in structures and for individuals of the same.

In other words Eric, what about Allen Kagina of UNRA?

That is where the greatest heist is taking place: where hundreds of billions or trillions of inflated road construction budget is funneled away, without a trace into Gen Tibuhaburwa's Treasury Chest for ruling Ugandans till he drops dead.

What about Operation Wealth Creation, under which Ministry and who allocates the budget and to whom is the accountability tabled?
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