Members of Parliament have ordered the Director of Lira Regional Referral Hospital, Dr John Stephen Obbo, to provide evidence for non-absorption of Shs1.5 billion ring-fenced for hiring of medical specialists.
Legislators who sit on the Public Accountants Committee (PAC-Central) are concerned that a number of hospitals including Lira Hospital received funds for recruitment of staff in the 2020/2021 financial year, but instead ‘swept’ back the money to the Consolidated Fund.
The observation was made during the meeting with officials from Lira Hospital over the Auditor General’s report for the Financial Year 2020/2021 on Thursday, 30 June 2022.
Dr Obbo in his justification said the non-absorption was partly a result of the difficulty for rural based health facilities to attract specialists.
“It is very difficult for us to attract medical specialists but we believe that the increase in salaries for scientists will motivate many to work upcountry,” said Obbo.
He also blamed the delays in the recruitment process at the Health Service Commission, which legislators rejected as the documents presented to the committee lacked evidence.
“The issue is we observe inordinate delay in notifying the Health Service Commission, but also there is no evidence of receipt by the commission. What you attached does not show that you wrote to the Health Service Commission,” said Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality), the committee vice chairperson.
He added: “The concern of the committee is we want to know whether this non-absorption was as a result of your negligence and incompetence or it was an issue with the Health Service commission.”
Tororo district Woman MP, Sarah Opendi, faulted the hospital for negligence, citing a letter from Lira Hospital to the Health Service Commission on staff recruitment.
“You realise you did not have staff, you knew you needed them, you got money but waited to make your request in the second quarter of the year,” Opendi said.
“When did you actually have these vacancies? Why weren’t these submissions made in time to enable the Health Service Commission to prepare for recruitment in time?” asked Opendi.
The committee observed that this trend as witnessed in several hospitals’ audit reports is a potential whistle blower calling for forensic audit on connivance between hospitals and the finance ministry.
“Why is this recurrent moreover in medical institutions?” asked Basalirwa before tasking Obbo to furnish the committee with evidence of any efforts made to utilise the funds for recruitment.
A day before, the hospital officials were sent away by the committee for failing to produce documents to support their responses to the Auditor General's report. The committee also threatened to block the transfer for the director to another station until he had responded to all the queries raised.