In Summary
  • I reiterate Finance Minister Kasaija’s assertion that “if some government officials misuse the money most of which is borrowed, Ugandan debt will be unsustainable; everyone should desist from corruption if citizen are to enjoy better services”.
  • The widespread cases of such small thefts cumulatively amount to a big dent on the already starved health sector. The net loser is the common man and woman that cannot afford to pay for the essential health services.

According to the 2017/18 budget framework paper released by ministry of Finance, funding to the health sector reduced by 30 per cent compared to the previous financial year. At 6.1 per cent of the national budget, the allocation of Shs1.2 trillion falls far short of the 15 per cent prescribed by the Abuja Declaration.
The health sector is central and closely linked to all other sectors; a sick population may not optimally engage in economic productivity, and mortality and morbidity undermine the socio-economic wellbeing.

The narrow tax base and available donor funds cumulatively cannot meet the budget needs.
A June 2016 report by Bank of Uganda showed that public debt stock then stood at Shs46.1 trillion, which was about 52 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
This is exceeds the 50 per cent threshold, meaning we are already entangled in a debt trap and will find it hard to pay both principle and interest. So, we must cut the “public service delivery” coat according to our “limited resource envelope cloth”.
It is worth noting that all sectors are underfunded—even those that usually take the lion’s share like State House and defence/security end up seeking supplementary funding.

The onus lies with public officials (duty bearers) to maximise the available resources optimally in the best interest of the citizens who pay tax and are ultimately responsible for debt repayment.
We have recurrent cases of absenteeism from work by health workers, patient extortion by health workers for services that are meant to be free in health centres, theft of medical items and other forms of flouting the Public Service Standard Operating Procedures.
Recently, a lab technician in Kumi District was found with government-issued Hepatitis B testing kits, which he was selling at Shs10,000.

In Pader district, a health worker was arrested for selling government-issued medical supplies in a private clinic.
In February, four pharmacists working at Mbarara regional referral hospital, were caught stealing HIV drugs.
Examples abound but the practice has not abated. It is frustrating that, in many instances, the suspects are set free even when there is enough evidence.
I reiterate Finance Minister Kasaija’s assertion that “if some government officials misuse the money most of which is borrowed, Ugandan debt will be unsustainable; everyone should desist from corruption if citizen are to enjoy better services”.
The widespread cases of such small thefts cumulatively amount to a big dent on the already starved health sector. The net loser is the common man and woman that cannot afford to pay for the essential health services.

Gilbert Musinguzi,
Quality assurance manager,
Uganda Debt Network