Uganda: Buy Nets And Save Global Fund Cash

03 Jul 2006
Monitor (Kampala)

Uganda's relationship with the Geneva-based Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is headed for the rocks once again. Last year, the Fund suspended the grant to Uganda over allegations of mismanagement of the disbursed money.

This time, it is Uganda which is trying to suspend itself with its sins of omission. The Ministry of Finance has for two and a half years been fidgeting with a simple tender for the procurement of 1.8 insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITNs).

A total of $13.4 million was provided buy the Global Fund for the nets which were meant to [protect the lives of children below the age of five]. Now the extended deadline of July 15 for having brought the ITNs into the country is fast approaching and the government has not even awarded the tender.

You would have thought that if someone was offering to buy the nets to save our children's lives, the government would have jumped at the chance and gone ahead to procure the nets. Imagine how many hundreds of children have died of malaria over the last two and a half years but some of whom could have been saved if they had got the nets.

Why wasn't the Global Fund money for the nets pursued with the same speed as that which was used to buy fuel for ministers' cars, pay for scholarships for the Project Management Unit staff and arranging workshops that never took place? Could it be because our officials did not have enough personal benefits in procuring the nets?

Now that Uganda is failing to procure the nets, it will also not qualify to apply for the malaria second phase money, $12 million, meant for re-treatment of the nets and evaluating the project.

Obviously, you cannot re-treat nets that you never bought nor can you evaluate a project that you did not implement.

But what is worse is that by failing to utilise the malaria programme money even after being granted a four-month extension to award the tender, Uganda would find it very difficult to have its proposals for the sixth round of the Global Fund succeed.

This means that other programmes namely Aids and TB will suffer, just because people did not issue a tender for the mosquito nets.

Whoever it is that has enough power to make those finance officials move, let them give the order so the ITNs tender is concluded. Otherwise, the health officials who are writing proposals for Round Six are just wasting time.