The select committee on Science Technology and Innovation has faulted the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Minister Monica Musenero, for taking on the role of the Permanent Secretary (PS).
The minister’s act of requesting for money directly from the finance ministry irked MPs she appeared before on Friday, 25 November 2021 to respond to accountability queries relating to alleged misuse of Shs 50 billion for COIVD-19 vaccine development.
The probe follows concerns raised by Ntungamo Municipality MP, Yona Musinguzi who said that in 2020, a select group of scientists convinced President Yoweri Museveni that they could produce a vaccine for COVID-19 and were funded under the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE) and yet they lacked the capacity to develop the vaccine.
On Thursday, 25 November 2021 while appearing before the committee, David Obong, the former Permanent Secretary in the ministry told legislators that Dr Musenero had failed to provide accountability, which in turn affected the comprehensive accountability by the Ministry.
Obong said that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the minister and ministry requires that Dr Musenero accounts to the ministry.
However, when tasked to explain her failure to account, Dr Musenero told the committee that she is not mandated to account to the ministry because the ministry did not give them the money directly.
“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,” Dr Musenero said.
She said they provided responses to the Auditor General and there is an ongoing forensic audit.
“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,” she said.
Hon Elijah Okupa (INDEP, Kasilo) asked the minister to provide the committee with a copy of the 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,” Okupa said.
The acting committee chairperson and also Nwoya County MP, Tony Awany said the evidence before them shows that PRESIDE failed to account.
“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,” he said.
Hon Aisha Kabanda, (NUP, Butambala) reading a letter authored by Dr Musenero dated Tuesday, 9 February 2021 written to the finance minister, Hon Matia Kasaija, questioned why she took over the role of the Permanent Secretary asking for Shs 7 billion to be released.
“Don’t you find it irregular that you were asking for money to be released and you are not the accounting officer?” Kabanda asked.
Dr Musenero responded that the letter was simply to inform the finance minister on the status of things and upon admission, pledged to work better next time.
“That has been noted. We have learnt. We are wiser now. Following that, there was a dialogue with the Permanent Secretary” Musenero said.
The minister assured MPs that her team was capable and that she is qualified to lead it.
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