When President Museveni appointed one of his personal physicians in September 2009 to fight corruption in the health sector, there were varied reactions to the move. The first was a mixture of anger and indifference from analysts who dismissed it as yet another cosmetic attempt by the government to treat the symptoms rather than the causes of the problem.
The second was an argument, put forward mainly by officials in State House, that the President had picked one of his trusted lieutenants to address a problem that threatened to drag Uganda’s health sector down the drain.
While confirming to Daily Monitor in an interview for an article published on October 2, 2009, that Dr Diana Atwiine Kanzira was one of the President’s personal physicians, Mr Tamale Mirundi, President Museveni’s press secretary, indicated that the Medicine and Health Services Delivery Monitoring Unit which she was to head, would have an open-ended mandate.
“The department has been given the responsibility to monitor all the activities of health institutions in the country; from hospitals to all health centres,” said Mr Mirundi. “There will be 24-hour hotlines which will soon be issued to the public so that the government can be alerted in case citizens are not getting the services they deserve.”
Cross-border drug trade
Buttressed by the President’s confidence in her, Dr Atwine has ruffled several feathers in her first full year of operation. On June 29, 2010, Dr Atwine’s team submitted a report to the Health Ministry in which she revealed a racket by Ugandan and Kenyan officials to sell drugs across either border.
By the time her team submitted the report, Dr Atwine said they had also brought 78 cases to court, recovered stolen drugs worth more than Shs200 million and caused the arrest of 12 impostors.
Then in August, the Dr Atwine-led team revealed that close to 300 ghost workers had been discovered on the payroll of Mulago National Referral Hospital.
While she has registered such successes, one monkey that Dr Atwine and her team have not shaken off their back is the argument that they do not have the teeth to bite the big fish in a ministry where many previous investigations into corruption revealed that some of the biggest culprits have previously sat on the high table.
Dr Atwine has indeed admitted that senior officials involved in corrupt practices are much harder to bring to book. “They have set up systems that, to break into, is very difficult,” she said. “Those ones need time but we are determined. All we need is information. You will hear of casualties.”
As Dr Atwine’s team embarks on the second full year of its work, many Ugandans will be waiting to see if they can indeed go after the big fish like they have done for some of the small fish.
Dr Atwine was born in Galiraya in Kayunga District in 1973. The third born to Ernest Rujundira and Joy Kensheka Rujundira, she studied at Bweranyangi Girls School for secondary level and then joined Mbarara University of Science and Technology to pursue a degree in human medicine. She also holds a master degree in human medicine.
Dr Atwine had a short working stint at Nsambya Hospital, after which she joined the Uganda Joint Clinical Research Centre. By the time of her appointment to head the Medicine and Health Services Delivery Monitoring Unit in September 2010, the mother of three, who is married to Mr Kanzira, was working as President Museveni’s Private Secretary in- charge of Medical Affairs.