MOH Pledges Transparency As Global Fund Marks 20 Years

The Global Fund has since 2007 committed a total of $1.7billion in funding to HIV, malaria and tuberculosis with annual contributions to health programmes bigger than the annual health budget appropriated by government.
Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng lighting a torch to launch a week long celebration of the 20 years of Global Fund Operations in Uganda

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The Ministry of Health has pledged to ensure transparency in the management of the funds under the Global Fund.

Global Fund has since 2007 committed a total of $1.7billion in funding initiatives aimed at curbing HIV, malaria and tuberculosis with annual contributions to health programmes bigger than the annual health budget appropriated by the government. 

On Wednesday at the celebrations to mark 20 years of the fund’s operations globally, the Minister of Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng guaranteed the donors accountability and transparency.

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According to Aceng, due to support from the fund to fight HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis, Aceng says they have been able to enrol up to 1.3 million people living with HIV on treatment and also had some 65,000 people access TB drugs annually.  In the financial year 2020/21 alone, Aceng says they were able to treat and provide care to 12.9 million people who suffered from malaria.

However, over the years, Uganda has had on and off relations with the fund starting with an audit in 2005 that revealed graft orchestrated by then Health Minister Jim Muhwezi and his deputies Dr Alex Kamugisha and Mike Mukula.  

The money was briefly suspended but shortly after resuming in 2007, it was again withheld on grounds of poor performance and misappropriation.

In 2016, another audit by the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), a board that oversees the use of the money found evidence of mismanagement even as the fund had earlier adopted a model where the ministry receives only 5% of the cash and the rest of the money is used by the fund itself to procure the commodities which are later distributed by the government and private partners.

But, the audit team then found that of all money to the tune of $421 million released by the Fund between January 2013 and June 2015, only 46% had been spent. Meanwhile, 70% of the 50 health facilities visited by the investigators lacked at least one essential medicine with HIV being the most affected.

It was also found that medicines procured at the country level were 36% more expensive than internationally bench-marked prices and Uganda warned but the money kept coming to different entities.

According to Dora Musinguzi, the Executive Director UGANET one of the Civil Society organizations implementing some of the funded initiatives in HIV says they have received not less than 20 Billion Shillings to mobilize communities to undertake prevention and treatment interventions.

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She says they have also done a lot of advocacy to demand accountability for the funds released.  It should be noted that civil society only got involved in Global Fund work after numerous complaints of misuse as the money was exclusively managed by the government.

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Uganda received the caravan torch from Kenya and will be handed over to Ethiopia on the 23rd of August. The torch will be moving around countries in Africa that have benefited from Global Fund until December when it will be going to South Africa.

While the first twenty years have been focused on initiatives aimed at saving lives since they came in at the time when anti-retroviral treatments were largely inaccessible and people were dying unnecessarily, Linda Mafu who heads Advocacy at the Global Fund headquarters in Geneva says the coming years are focusing on defeating the three diseases as public health threats.