The Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital Dr. Baterana Byarugaba and six other officials from the hospital were on Tuesday March 1, detained, allegedly for masterminding massive fraud that has cost taxpayers more than UGX28 billion.
Dr. Byarugaba was picked from his duty station on Tuesday by the State House Health Monitoring Unit headed by Lt. Col. Warren Namara.
Byarugaba’s arrest had initially triggered a hostile reaction from the medical fraternity, before Col. Namara made a detailed briefing in which he showed that Byarugaba had not only presided over massive fraud and mismanagement, he had also defied calls to answer questions from the investigations unit.
In what he described as preliminary findings, Col. Namara told journalists that Dr Byarugaba had made dubious payments to two companies involved in the refurbishment of the national referral hospital, which is estimated to have cost taxpayers about UGX20 billion.
It is alleged that Mulago administration made ghost procurement of equipment worth UGX20.5bn from Ms. Setramaco international Limited & Ms. Convention world limited.
In other dealings, Lt. Col. Namara outlined a list of dubious procurement of medicines and medical supplies in a huge racket involving two private pharmacies, located questionably, inside the precincts of the publicly funded hospital.
The private pharmacies in question are First Pharmacy located near the entrance of the hospital and Echo Pharmacy also located, inside the hospital.
Our team verified supplies allegedly made by one First Pharmacy. During the period of investigation, Mulago had paid more than UGX1 billion for medicines procured under emergency arrangements – when NMS drugs had ran out, but our investigation, it was discovered that only a small quantity of the purported deliveries had been received.
Mulago Central store paid First Pharmacy UGX 754 million on the same day without any deliveries.
Lt. Col. further said that their findings indicated that most of the items for which First Pharmacy was paid were the same items that the National Medical Stores (NMS) delivers to hospitals.
Private pharmacies operate illegally
The State House Health Monitoring Unit further discovered that both First Pharmacy and Echo Pharmacy had no valid licences issued by the National Drug Authority (NDA).
But before that, the pharmacies had entered into ten-year tenancy agreements with the hospital administration without due diligence from relevant government agencies such as the solicitor general or the ministry of health.
Not only did they supply air, the Health Monitoring Unit discovered, the private pharmacies defaulted on rent amounting to UGX 135m for First Pharmacy and UGX 67m for Echo Pharmacy.
The arrest of Dr. Byarugaba is the first step, in what the health monitoring team says is a continuing investigation.
Dr. Baterana’s lawyers told one news outlet that their client had declined to report to them because, they said, he is not accountable to them but rather to the Ministry of Finance, Parliament or the Auditor General.