Dr. Monica Musenero, The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, struggled to provide accountability documents to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (Central Governments)

Musenero and the State House Comptroller, Jane Barekye were appearing before the committee that is considering the Auditor General’s forensic investigation report into Covid-19 funds received and expended by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MoSTI) during financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.

The forensic investigation was informed by a resolution of Parliament on a report of the Parliamentary Taskforce on the National Covid-19 Response which requested the Auditor General to conduct the investigation on Covid-19 funds.

The main objective of the forensic investigation was to ascertain whether all Covid-19-related spending was applied appropriately in accordance with existing laws, policies, and guidelines, whether there was any loss in expenditure and clarify responsible officers, and to make recommendations for better use of Covid-19-related funds.

Hon.Musenero on left.

“I have included all information relevant to the specific transactions as provided to me. However, it is also possible that more documents and information might exist which were not made available to me, or that I was unable to locate. My findings are specific to the procurement of the equipment, the disbursement of Covid-19 funds by MoSTI, and the utilization of the operational funds by the scientists’ approved by the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE),” Auditor General John Muwanga noted in his report.

PRESIDE was a presidential initiative chaired by Minister Musenero, who was then a Senior Presidential Advisor on Epidemics.

The Auditor General reported that his investigation faced limitations and one of these was the closure of MoSTI which resulted in the transfer of key personnel and eventually led to challenges in the timely receipt and review of some of the required documentation as well as accessing some officers for interviews as they had been redeployed to new work stations or rendered redundant.

“Hon. Monica Musenero did not provide to me the documents listed below whose existence she had disclosed during her interview with me on 5th July 2022. I could not make the conclusions I could have made; had I obtained and reviewed the documents from PRESIDE,” Muwanga reported.

The documents in question are proof of submission of accountability by PRESIDE by the Ministry, the approved adjusted budgets for the lab animal House project and the PCR and antibody Diagnostic Test Kits, the PRESIDE follow-up on uninstalled equipment for scientists, and the record regarding the current status of equipment procured by the ministry.

When tasked by the PAC Central Government Committee Chairperson, Medard Lubega Sseggona to explain why the documents had not been availed to the Auditor General, Musenero said that she did not give the documents because she had not understood what was being asked for.

She however changed her statement and indicated that the ministry was in transition and that at the time of the interview, all documents had earlier been taken away by the Auditor General.

Dr. Musenero again told the committee that it was possibly an omission not to avail the documents but they are available.

Hon. Eddie Kwizera flashes one of the documents from PRESIDE. One his left is Hon. Nandala Mafabi

Her statements angered the committee and Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala said that it was the responsibility of the Minister to account for the money availed for different scientific investigations.

Nandala informed Musenero that the failure to avail documents to the Auditor General attracts a 12 years prison term under the law.

The Auditor General indicates that in the financial year 2020/2021, the Ministry received supplementary funding of 31.032 billion which was to support the 23 selected projects of scientists and innovators engaged in Covid-19 scientific research. The money comprised 15.78 billion for the procurement of specialized machinery and equipment and 15.24 billion for operational costs towards the development of vaccines as well as drug diagnostics.

Hon.Lubega Sseggona, gave the Minister up to Friday to provide the documents under inquiry. Sseggona adjourned the committee hearings into the matter on Monday next week.

“When you go back, dig deeper for accountability-related documents because that is what the Auditor General was asking for. A budget allocation which you have presented was not an issue here, but once you are allocated budgets, then you account,” he said.

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