Uganda is yet again engulfed in confusion over the procurement and supply of malaria Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDTs) funded by the Global Fund.
ChimpReports has accessed a letter written to President Yoweri Museveni and correspondences between Global Fund Portfolio Manager Dr. Saman Zamani and Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija revealing grave differences between Ministers on the USD$ 26m annual malaria control funds.
Though malaria remains a major public health problem, accounting for 30-50 percent of the outpatient cases and 9-14 percent of inpatient deaths in Uganda, some top officials seem to have developed relationship with drug supplying companies risking quality and efficiency.
On March 22nd 2019 Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija wrote an urgent letter to Global Fund Portfolio Manager, Dr. Saman Zamani requesting him not to cancel the contract of South Korean based medicine manufacturer, Access Bio, which is currently supplying malaria RDTs.
“It has been brought to my attention that the Global Fund intends to cancel an order that the Pooled Procurement Mechanism (PPM) and Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PfSCM)) processes independently awarded to Access Bio due to the request from the principle recipient,” said Kasaija.
Some officials believe that the unnamed principle recipient is the Minister of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng.
Kasaija noted to the Global Fund that Access Bio has made formal complaint to the country’s top leadership (President Museveni).
This website also got copy of the letter written to Museveni by Access Bio Group Chairman, Young Choi early in March.
Mr. Young accused Minister Aceng of trying to influence the malaria RDTs procurement process and ironically praised the State Minister of Health, Sarah Opendi Acieng, overtly revealing the differences between the two ministers responsible for the same sector.
“Mr. President, we have been reliably informed by the Global Fund and our company representatives in Africa that Hon. Dr. Aceng (Jane) has asked the Global Fund through the Grant Portfolio managers for Africa Dr. Saman Zamani and Mr. Linden to review this contract decision that is already awarded to us and reverse it in favor of her favorite Abbott Diagnostics Ltd,” said the letter to Museveni.
According to sources, Museveni immediately made a phone call to Dr. Aceng who denied the allegations and asked Museveni to task those accusing her to present evidence in terms of copy of her letter to Global Fund.
On March 27th 2019 Kasaija wrote another letter to the Global Fund boss saying the government has concluded that Access Bio should continue with the supply.
“The country confirms that you should continue and execute the orders as per our earlier written instructions,” remarked Kasaija.
Dr. Zamani responded saying the government’s position to maintain the contract of Access Bio has been shared with the Global Fund Secretariat
Records show that Access Bio has been supplying malaria RDTs for the last 7 years since 2011. It remains unclear how the company has maintained its monopoly status in Uganda.
ChimpReports understands that Malaria Program Manager, Dr. Jimmy Opigo has ever written to Global Fund asking for the consideration of reviewing of malaria RTDs supply contract.
Global Fund officials reportedly said maintaining Access Bio’s contract is premised on the annual request from Uganda to uphold it. The origin of the request remains a mystery since there is no formal document from Health Ministry, which is in charge of implementing the program.
When contacted on phone, Minister Aceng said she is aware of developments but denied involvement in any procurement process.
“I have seen the letters you’ve quoted. There is however no single letter I have written to Global Fund concerning the malaria RDTs supply contract. Those who are alleging it should provide proof,” said Aceng.
Access Bio, apparently, wants to build a factory in Uganda and already signed Memorandum of Understanding with the government.
In August 2005 Global Fund temporarily suspended all of its five grants to Uganda and asked the Ministry of Finance to put in place a new structure that to ensure effective management of the grants. Decision was based on a review undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers on one of the five grants, which revealed evidence of serious mismanagement by the Project Management Unit (PMU) in the Ministry of Health.
The ban was uplifted in November 2005 after the disbandment of Project Management Unit and the incorporation of a private international management and accounting firm, Ernest and Young to administer Global Fund money.
Last year Uganda received USD$ 478 million grant from the Global Fund to support HIV, T.B and Malaria programs for 3 years (2018-2020).