Prof Mbonye: Former health director says Aceng, Atwine running down MoH

In a 360-page bare knuckles book, "Uganda’s Health Sector Through Turbulent Politics (1958-2018)," Prof Mbonye names Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Dr Diana Atwine, and Dr Christine Ondoa as being the top health ministry officials "who thrive on intrigue."

HEALTH | Former acting Director-General of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Anthony Mbonye, has no kind words for current leadership of the docket he was forced out of a year ago, saying they are at the centre of the rot bedeviling the health sector.

In a 360-page bare knuckles book, “Uganda’s Health Sector Through Turbulent Politics (1958-2018),” Prof Mbonye names Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Dr Diana Atwine, and Dr Christine Ondoa as being the top health ministry officials “who thrive on intrigue.”

Aceng heads the health ministry with Atwine as permanent secretary and Ondoa oversees the running of Uganda Aids Commission.

Sendo Cleaners

“The immediate effect has been on demoralisation of staff, who feel that the institutional mechanism to advance their professional careers are no longer relevant,” Mbonye claims.

In 2017, Dr Atwine sought to remove Prof Mbonye from the top most technical position in the ministry, citing integrity issues after the Inspectorate of Government accused him of conflict of interest when he determined the personal specifications for the position of the director general of health services, a position he was interested in and applied for.

At the time, the position of Director-General of Health Services was among those advertised by the ministry. And Mbonye, who was serving in the acting capacity, applied to compete for the job.

Atwine moved fast to implement the IGG’s recommendations, ordering Mbonye to vacate office.

But High Court, on January 31, 2018, threw out the recommendations of the IGG, saying it was unfair to block Mbonye because there was no evidence of conflict of interest against him and that he had not been given a hearing before a competent authority.

“While the IGG was mandated to make findings after investigations, the finding that there was conflict of interest is not conclusive as Mbonye is entitled to due process before the authority mandated to enforce the code,” the court said.

In his book, Mbonye, a husband of Lucy Nakyobe, the State House comptroller, claims that Atwine had written a statement to IGG that was used as evidence in court.

“Astonishingly, Atwine became permanent secretary, an administrative post, without any training in administration nor experience in management,” Mbonye says.

Justice Henrietta Walayo of the High Court ordered that Mbonye should sit the interviews.

But days after winning the case, Mbonye, who was the director of Clinical and Community Health Services, surprised his fellow officials at the ministry when he resigned.

He argued that he could not work alongside with officials who “conduct themselves in unprofessional manner.”

However, where many would go to the media to spill the beans, Prof Mbonye opted to pour his grievances in a book about the alleged rot in the Ministry of Health.

Given his acrimonious exit from the ministry, made worse by allegations that Atwine and others tried to fight his wife Nakyobe out of the job at State House, the tone and level of expose in Mbonye’s book is not surprising.

He faults Aceng, Atwine and Ondoa for the early retirement of senior and experienced technocrats at the ministry, saying intrigue and intimidation orchestrated by the three powerful women officials had left them with no alternative.

“During several meetings, they openly abused, ridiculed and humiliated officers,” Mbonye say in the book that was recommended by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Among the officials he claims were “harassed and intimidated” into exit include Dr Paul Kagwa, then assistant commissioner of health promotion, and Dr Rachel Seruyange, then programme manager of Uganda National Extended Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI).

Others are Dr Jennifer Wanyana, former assistant commissioner of reproductive health, and Paul Luyima, former assistant commissioner of environment.

Mbonye also accuses Aceng of fighting Dr Joyce Muriko, the state minister for primary healthcare.

Muriko, also the Moyo Woman MP, sought to move into an office occupied by his predecessor when she was appointed to the ministry, a demand her superior rejected.

“Dr Aceng refused to allow her occupy this office instead gave it to Sarah Opendi, the state minister of health for general duties,” he says.

However, Dr Atwine told this news website that Mbonye wrote the book out of frustration while Minister Aceng said the professor is an idler and lacks what to do.

“Those who resigned, let Mbonye to his groundwork well by checking with human resource at ministry how they resigned,” Dr Aceng said.

Cases from the past

Mbonye alleges that Aceng has been a subject of investigation over a case of stolen anti-malaria drugs from Lira Hospital, where she was then the acting medical superintendent.

The professor alleges that the drugs were found in Aceng’s clinic and the case was registered at Lira Police Station, revealing the reference number CRB-1653/06.

However, David Ongom, the North Kyoga regional police spokesperson, asked for time to crosscheck with the records at Lira Central Police Station CID office to confirm. He had not reverted by press time.

And for Ondoa, when she was Health minister, Mbonye says she fought Asuman Lukwago, who was then the permanent secretary at the ministry.

“Lukwago survived the plot to have him ousted by a whisker. It is believed that he used the Muslim lobby group to plead with President Museveni to keep him on,” he claims.

Sources at State House said the president is aware of the thick red line drawn between the two parties and has tried to reconcile the two cliques.

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