Kutesa daughters’ company Silverbacks Pharmacy breaks silence on Covid19 oxygen plants procurement scandal

Charlotte Nankunda Kainerugaba, Ishta Asiimwe Muganga of Silverbacks Pharmacy Ltd, and an oxygen plant. Courtesy Photos

Silverbacks Pharmacy Ltd, co-owned by first son Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s wife Charlotte Nankunda, and her sister Ishta Asiimwe Magunga, has spoken out on reports of their involvement in Covid19 oxygen plants procurement scandal.

According to a report by the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit (Bmau) of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (Mofped), Silverbacks Pharmacy Limited had taken months to supply the oxygen plants for Mulago National Referral Hospital and Entebbe Grade B Hospital.

The report also raised questions on the contract sum, suggesting that it had been inflated compared to another procurement by the same company, undertaken three years earlier where Shs6bn fetched the country more oxygen plants than the ones in 2020 – even if exchange rate variations were factored in.

But in a statement, Silverbacks Pharmacy Ltd has denied any wrongdoing.

The company says that contrary to a Bmau report, it was contracted to supply seven oxygen plants, not two.

The seven are: Four oxygen plants for Mulago National Referral Hospital (three with a capacity of 30m3/hr each, and one with a capacity of 35m3/hr); one Oxygen plant with a 16m3/hr capacity at Entebbe Grade B Hospital; one with a capacity of 11 m3/hr at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital; and another at Kayunga Hospital, also with the capacity of 11 m3/hr.

“This procurement also included three filling stations, 450 cylinders, 450 regulators, humidifier bottles and cannulas at a cost of Uganda Shillings 6.4 Billion,” the company added.

The company also denies cutting corners to win the contract.

“Mulago National Referral Hospital for the installation of an oxygen plant. Silverbacks emerged the best evaluated bidder for Procurement Reference Number MHC/SERVICES/19-20/00098,” the statement further read.

“As part of the Covid-19 national response, Ministry of Health (MOH) issued a Request for Quotations to which Silverbacks Pharmacy responded. MOH then contracted Silverbacks Pharmacy under Procurement Reference MOH/SUPLS/19-20/137 to supply and install 7 medical oxygen plants.”

The Kutesa daughters also explained why the money was paid in advance. They equally denied delaying the supplies as the Bmau report claims.

“By September 2020, all medical oxygen plants, cylinders and accessories were delivered via AWB NO 235-ISL-77399770 and cylinders were distributed to 22 hospitals as per the MOH delivery schedule,” Ishta and Charlotte noted in the statement issued by their company.

“Advance payment from MOH was obtained due to the emergency nature of the procurement, the global pandemic situation, global scarcity and high demand of oxygen supplies and equipment related to treatment Covid-19 worldwide.”

On claims of inflated contract sum, Silverbacks Pharmacy Ltd explained the differences between the items supplied in 2017 and what was delivered in 2020, and blamed other factors for the price changes.

In 2017, Silverbacks supplied 13 oxygen plants while in 2020, seven were procured.

“The total installed capacity of the plants supplied in 2017 was 195m3/hr, at a cost of USD 1.8 M (equivalent of Uganda Shillings 6.786 billion). The total installed capacity of the plants supplied in 2020 was 163m3/hr at a cost of Uganda Shillings 6.4 billion,” the statement further read.

“These procurements differed in specifications of plant size and works. In 2020 the price disparity is brought about by the following; Additional items procured in 2020; that is (450 cylinders, 450 regulators and accessories), air freight due to the emergency nature of the procurement, exchange rate difference between 2017 and 2020.”

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