Dr. Diana Swings As Global Fund Battles Top MoH Boss

Dr. Diana Swings As Global Fund Battles Top MoH Boss

By John V Sserwaniko

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine has written to Sr. Grace Edyegu Otelu, an official on the Malaria Control Program, asking her to refund Shs30m within 30 days or else she faces her wrath.

The money is wanted by the Global Fund (GF), a donor program that funds most of the health Ministry programs concerning malaria. Apparently it’s a condition GF has set for the Uganda government making it clear future grants won’t be sanctioned until Edyegu accounts for the money.

Sr Grace Edyegu

GF has since December 2016 been writing reminder letters to the PS demanding proper accountability for the money to enable them do grant closure which is a condition precedent for the next grant talks to commence.

Atwine’s letter shows that the GF team working with Auditor General’s office has previously reviewed the accountability Edyegu submitted and dismissed it as unsatisfactory.

“They both found that your accountability documents were suspicious. In order to fully close the aforementioned Grant, I’m instructed to take administrative action and cause you to refund the above mentioned money without fail…therefore you are directed to refund the stated sum of money [Shs29,160,240],” Atwine’s March 15th 2017 letter reads in part.

“You are hereby required to comply with the directive to have fully refunded the funds within 30 days from receipt of this letter.”

The money is supposed to have been spent facilitating local leaders from several Karamoja and Teso region districts who attended malaria-related trainings. The activities were held under a program called “Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria [AMFM].”

We spoke to Edyegu who was, as usual, very defiant and in a combative mood. “I will not refund anything because I can’t refund the money I didn’t use personally. Did I use it to buy food or put it in my father’s stomach? We are tired of their nonsense. Let them come and take their money if they call us thieves,” Edyegu defiantly said.

Insisting she didn’t eat even a coin, Edyegu said:  “I went to the field with Dr. Myers Lugemwa and we covered 8 Teso districts and 7 in Karamoja. We had 30 leaders from each district. We bought each a handbook, a file, a pen and exercise books plus an allowance of Shs12,000 for each. I properly accounted and the auditors approved. I’m an old woman retiring next year and I don’t give a damn.”

She also said she requisitioned for Shs137m which was given to her after then PS Asuman Lukwago intervened saying the planned activities had been delayed too long. She said the AMFM activities she requisitioned money for went on in 112 districts of Uganda. She wondered why the GF bosses continue funding anti-malaria programs “if they really think all of us are thieves.”

Saying she was at the Uganda-Sudan border supervising distribution of mosquito nets but would return to Kampala on 14th April and give a more detailed explanation, Edyegu explained: “I bought stationary for the whole country for that [AMFM] exercise and I even returned the balance of Shs100, 000 to our [MOH] accounts department. If I was a thief as they are portraying me, I would have taken it home to buy charcoal. It’s really so annoying what these people are doing to us. I think they [GF bosses] should come and implement the program themselves since all of us are thieves.”

Edyegu, who joined the MOH headquarters during the days of Gen Jim Muhwezi as Health Minister, said she is a professional nurse and won’t allow being subdued by a clique of non medical persons whom she said are out to undermine her in the Malaria Control program.

“I’m a nurse by training and I’m a professional. If they are social scientists who think I don’t deserve to be in the Ministry, let them go to Gender where they belong.” She also denied claims that she always refers to her credentials as an NRM cadre each time scrutiny questions are raised against her.

“I’m on this job as a professional and not because of NRM and there are many other nurses and doctors working in the Ministry. We are all colleagues and I don’t know why I’m being singled out for witch hunt,” said Edyegu who first joined MOH after secretly reporting wrong characters who were misappropriating government money in her district.

Sources say Museveni felt she risked being harmed if she stayed in that district whose thieves she had reported to him. Besides denying ever using the President’s name to cow her supervisors, Edyegu also rejected claims that she is harsh, quarrelsome and always acts brutally towards colleagues. \

“It’s not true that I’m not supposed to be in the Ministry headquarters and that I have been resisting transfers,” she said when pressed on claims that her supervisors fear asking her accountability questions because she can report them to the President and other leaders in the NRM. She maintained she will relentlessly defend herself whenever required but won’t refund any money “because I didn’t divert any.”