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EBOLA MONEY WAR: Aceng’s Health Ministry Officials Angry with US Ambassador for Channeling Ebola Billions Through Agencies, Bypassing Ministry Over Corruption

Minister Aceng and Ambassador Natalie Brown. Courtesy Photos

A cold war between the Ministry of Health (MoH) officials and the United States (US) Embassy in Kampala is currently ongoing over funds the American people had allocated to Uganda for the fight against the outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic Ebola Virus Disease.

There has been confusion after the Ministry of Health claimed they did not have enough money to support the fight against Ebola yet the United States government said it had released the money, channeling it through humanitarian agencies, the implementing partners in the Ebola response.

The reason for channeling the money through humanitarian agencies and not the Ministry of Health is that there are always reports that some of the officials at the Wandegeya-based government ministry have made it a habit to divert the money and use it for activities that were not planned for, activities that are sometimes not in anyway related to the fight against pandemics or diseases, with a significant amount stolen by unscrupulous officials who reportedly use it for their selfish reasons such as purchase of prime land and establishment of apartments and high rise buildings.

“I think a very real concern, and I think every Ugandan shares this, is the issue of corruption in Uganda. There was a report released by the IGG about the cost of corruption and how people will say ‘leaking’ donor-associated funds from where they need to go,” explained US Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown on November 02.

“This is a very real and serious challenge, and that is also one of the reasons why we work with so many partners instead of providing budgetary support. We also appeal to everyone in government and everyone involved to really do what they can to clamp down on corruption. This costs everyone when these funds are leaking out into someone’s pockets instead of the communities and supporting resources.”

Despite these concerns, Ambassador Natalie noted that donors had sent $6 million to the Ministry of Health through other entities. The implementing partners and humanitarian agencies that have received funding sent by the US government include Baylor Uganda, the Infectious Disease Institute, World Health Organization and UNICEF. The US embassy says these have structures that they are using to manage Ebola response activities.

According to Ambassador Brown, Washington, D.C., has as of this week injected about Shs83bn ($22.3m) in Uganda’s fight against the Ebola Virus Disease since mid-September 2022 when the outbreak of the viral haemorrhagic fever was confirmed in the district of Mubende.

Baylor Uganda, which is in charge of contact tracing, alert management, and training laboratory staff on infection prevention and control, has received $5.5 million while Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) has been allocated $3.8 million to support emergency medical services and ensure dignified burials. Up to $6.4 million has gone to UN agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to support coordination, waste management, supporting survivors, and community sensitization as well as engagement.

But on November 02, Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng complained to Parliament of Uganda that her docket did not have enough money to implement Ebola control activities in a timely manner. said her team needs to be allocated money directly in order to implement control activities in time. She said that MoH needed Shs76 billion for the Ebola fight.

She also explained her disappointment with donors’ decisions to bypass her Ministry and choose international partners working in Uganda. Insisting that MoH had a clear response plan, Aceng expressed her ministry’s frustration with the donors such as the US government.

Aceng added: “Partners usually inquire about government input before they declare their resources. We are seeing partners declaring resources mobilized on social media, which resources we do not have information about.”

Ambassador Brown has called on government to release the funds the Museveni administration promised to inject in the Ebola Virus Disease response. “For this response, the President made a commitment to other funds. We encourage the ministry of Finance and others to make the funds available for the ministry of Health response.”

As of November 02, Uganda had recorded a cumulative number of 131 Ebola positive cases, and 46 deaths while 2,183 contacts were being followed up. Recently, a Ministry of Health official revealed that some villagers had made it a habit to exhume bodies of Ebola victims at night to perform rituals, leading to further spread of the disease and more deaths. (See Details Here).

Meanwhile, Speaker Anita Among has ordered Kabaka’s radio CBS to produce a recording of Bobi Wine’s NUP MP over his statements in which he reportedly claimed that there was no Ebola in Uganda. (Read full story HERE).

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