MINISTER MUSENERO GRILLED OVER COVID19 VACCINE CASH
By Joel Mugabi
The Select Committee on Science Technology and Innovation has interrogated Dr Monica Musenero, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, over her role in the utilization of funds meant for the development of Uganda’s Covid19 vaccine.
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When she appeared before the Select Committee on Friday, Minister Musenero was tasked to explain why she had usurped the powers of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary (PS). The Committee was instituted to probe Musenero after Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi made allegations against her. But President Museveni has since defended her as a ‘decorated officer’ and vowed to go for whoever is vending lies against her.
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MPs were particularly concerned that Musenero had directly requested funds for the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE) project from Matia Kasaija’s Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED).
Former Permanent Secretary in the ministry, David Obong, told the Committee on November 25 that Dr Musenero had failed to provide accountability, as she was required to, according to the terms in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between her and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
But when the Committee grilled her about Obong’s submission to the legislators, Musenero argued that she had no mandate to account to MoSTI because the Ministry didn’t give her — and PRESIDE – the money. She further revealed that PRESIDE had responded to queries from the Office of the Auditor General, and that there was currently a forensic audit being undertaken.
“Accountabilities have been provided and that has been the basis of that first audit. An impression has been created that some funds have been accounted for, and that is wrong. We were able to provide all the accountability and there have been two audits. The management letter that we have received shows no indication that we have failed to account,” said the Minister.
“The PS was comfortable with the level of accountability to an extent that he requested for the remaining funds. He could not have asked for the money if we had not accounted for it.”
But MPs demanded more answers from Musenero. Kasilo MP Elijah Okupa tasked the Minister to present evidence of reports from the scientists as proof of accountability. “If you did the accountability, just bring the copy of accountability which you got from the different researchers and entities, that will solve the problem,” said Okupa.
“The Permanent Secretary requested for full accountability of Shs 41 billion but PRESIDE failed to account for the money they received. It was inconceivable that they could be entrusted with more funds when the previous ones have not yet been accounted for,” submitted acting committee chairperson, also Nwoya County MP Tony Awany.
“Don’t you find it irregular that you were asking for money to be released and you are not the accounting officer?” asked Butambala’s Aisha Kabanda. In the end, Minister Musenero told the committee that the PRESIDE team had “learnt” their lessons and “we are wiser now.” (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us email@example.com).