Members of Parliament have called for an audit into the Ministry of Health over their spending of 400 million shillings meant for research on the Nodding Disease in Northern Uganda.
Parliament was on Wednesday September 25 told that the money was spent within five days and not on the actual activities for which it was released.
Presenting the Nodding Disease subcommittee report, Chairperson Dr Medard Bitekyerezo observed that the money was availed to a team of researchers in the Ministry of Health.
The researchers were to assess the prevalence and distribution of the disease in Northern Uganda to estimate the actual burden of the disease and actual number of deaths.
The committee noted that by July 5, 2012 a total of 13 research protocols had been approved by the MOH research subcommittee.
Bitekyerezo, who is also Mbarara Municipality MP, said on further inquiry the committee learnt that the 400 million shillings was spend on the development of research protocols but not on research itself.
They thus recommend that a forensic audit of this expenditure be conducted by the Auditor General to establish the value for money.
Before Parliament approved a supplementary budget in July 2012 to address the nodding disease syndrome, the Ministry in collaboration with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention based in Atlanta, US had carried out some preliminary investigations on 139 children with nodding disease in Kitgum district.
It was found that 128 children had low levels of Vitamin B6 and 69 others had high levels of river blindness.
The subcommittee also learnt that Village Health Teams had been mobilized to help in sensitizing the communities to take the affected children to the outreach and treatment centres and adherence to medication.
However, Bitekyerezo noted that the VHTs had been neglected in terms of facilitation and there was discrimination in payment.
They recommend that each member of the village health team be paid 25,000 shillings as motivation allowance. They also recommend that the MOH stop discriminating among the health workers handling the nodding disease syndrome.
Instead the ministry should use the funds allocated to it to pay its employed health workers as well as those recruited and employed by the local authorities.
The Mbarara Municipality MP also recommended that government through MOH should inject more funds to train health workers in the two regional referral hospitals of Gulu and Lira. There is also need to equip them to acquire capacities to handle nodding disease patients.
It was also noted that most of the treatment centres in Atanga Health Centre III in Pader, Kitgum hospital treatment centre, Tumango outreach in Kitgum and Cub outreach in Gem parish lacked electricity.
Others are Palabek Gem treatment centre and Palabek Kal screening and treatment centre in Lamwo and Gulu regional referral hospital.
In response, Sarah Opendi, the state Minister for primary health care said MOH have bought solar panels in Atanga and Lamwo and arrangements are ongoing to train health workers in affected districts.
However, she denied expenditure of the 400 million shillings by the Ministry saying the research protocol was carried out without funding.
Cases of the nodding syndrome had been diagnosed in Gulu and Amuru districts but no targeted interventions had been made like there was in Pader, Lamwo and Kitgum. The number of cases was 2,357 though the MOH estimates the total number of nodding cases to be 3000.