Health ministry blocks suspected Shs2bn food payment fraud

SPOTLIGHT | The Ministry of Health has blocked a dubious payment of Shs2.2 billion for beans and other foodstuff purportedly supplied to hospitals and health centres in West Nile by a private company.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the line minister, says she was tipped off by the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council (UNMC) about a pending fraudulent transfer of money from the ministry account and she promptly blocked it.

“The council (UNMC) ran to me on the issue of fraud. I then helped to get a lawyer to block the transfer of the said money. There are a number of frauds reported to me. They will all be investigated,” Dr Aceng said by telephone.

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The council denied doing any food supply deal because it is not in its mandate.

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, senior public relations officer at the ministry, confirmed that investigations into the fraud were ongoing.

Dynamic Consortium Ltd, a firm that claims to have been contracted by UNMC to supply beans, has been demanding payment since 2012 and secured a court order in August last year.

The assistant registrar of the High Court in Arua District, Godfrey Ngobi, on August 17, 2017, issued an order compelling UNMC to pay the firm Shs2.2 billion for supply and additional Shs37.8 million as costs of the suit.

However, it later emerged that during the tender process for the supply and the court proceedings, Dynamic Consortium was dealing with an unknown entity called Uganda Nurses and Midwives/NSG, which is not the UNMC.

Court documents and the supply of food agreement signed on March 17, 2011 show that Uganda Nurses and Midwives/NSG claimed to have its address at Mulago hospital.

Following Dr Aceng’s intervention, UNMC filed a case in the High Court in Arua seeking a declaration to set aside the execution of the previous decree by the court registrar.

Through their lawyers, the acting UNMC registrar, Ms Rebecca Nassuna, swore an affidavit saying the council had never dealt with Dynamic Consortium and their accounts had been seized in error.

The respondents were Dynamic Consortium, Uganda Nurses and Midwives/NSG and Stanbic Bank where the UNMC accounts were.

Consequently, the then resident judge of Arua High Court, Justice Stephen Mubiru, on September 14, 2017 overturned Mr Ngobi’s order.

In his ruling, Justice Mubiru said Mr Ngobi failed to properly direct himself to serve the orders for payment on Uganda Nurses and Midwives/NSG who are indebted to Dynamic Consortium.

Dr Aceng has ordered investigations into the matter which she suspects to be an internal connivance scheme by some UNMC officials to fleece the council and government.

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