After years of procuring and distributing medicines and medical supplies all over the country, the National Medical Stores -NMS is now set to face competition with other players in the field. This follows a damning committee report accusing NMS of theft, overpricing and supplying expiring drugs to health centres that don't need them and then charging them for the destruction of the junk medicine.
Legislators have this afternoon approved parliament’s
Public Accounts Committee- PAC Central Government report carrying a recommendation
that the monopoly of National Medical Stores be stopped.
The report on the findings of the Auditor General on
the Health Sector for the financial years 2016/2017 to 2019/2020 unearths massive rot at the NMS involving and corruption, incompetence resulting into lack of essential medicines and health
supplies, alongside exposure of the population to expired drugs and capacity for such drugs' their destruction.
The National Medical Stores is mandated to procure,
store and distribute human medication and health-related consumable items to
government - owned heath units across the country.
In the report presented by PAC Chairperson Nathan
Nandala Mafabi, the lack of essential medicines and health supplies is attributed to
low supply and not only improper budgeting.
Mafabi also says that users of the medicines and health
supplies are not involved in the planning and budgeting process and NMS
provides the indicative figures of the essential medicines and health supplies to
users after the budget has been passed.
“Prices charged by National
Medical Stores were beyond the market prices; no private hospital or health unit
can buy from National Medical Stores because of its high prices, and hospitals prefer
buying drugs from the Joint Medical Stores because they are cheaper,” reads
part of the committee report.
Nandala also quoted President
Yoweri Museveni’s letter dated 16th May, 2020 in which he called NMS
as anti-Ugandan operations because of the prices and operations.
He recommended that the monopoly of NMS should be
stopped because it is overcharging hospitals and health units.
“Indicative prices of medicines should be provided
to users to assist them determine the usage of their vote allocation," recommends PAC. "Budgeting
should be done when the users know the prices and this would be the transparent
way of determining that National Medical Stores is providing the essential medicines
and health supplies at the market price.”
The committee also established
that there are a lot of expired essential medicines and health supplies and that
this is a result of the push-down where essential medicines and health supplies
are sent down by NMS without requisition.
Nandala also notes that the essential
medicines and health supplies sent are those which are about to expire and
therefore have a short shelf life.
//Cue in: “health units being…
Cue out:…the highest order.”//
PAC has thus recommended that the
essential medicines to Health Centres should be those they have requested for
and that no health centre should receive essential medicines and health supplies
which are about to expire or have a short shelf life because drugs purchased in
a financial year should be those manufactured in that year.
The MPs also say that government
should establish control systems where NMS should not be the sole executor for example
procure, store, distribute and destroy drugs.
of Expired Drugs
“The Committee observed that NMS which
is responsible for the supply of essential medicines and health supplies is the
same one that destroys expired ones at a high cost to health units. The destruction
does not follow the established Laws and hence corruption and theft by NMS,”
He says that section 35 of the
Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) providing that any abandonment of claims and
write off of public money and stores is done by approval of Parliament is being
violated by NMS.
Nandala adds that Parliament has never
approved write off of expired essential medicines and health supplies and that this
means NMS escapes accountability.
//Cue in: “the committee
Cue out:…the health facility.”//
Robert Centenary, the Kasese Municipality
MP agreed that NMS should work like other medical suppliers and health centres
//Cue in: “we have a…
Cue out:…the local sources.”//
Jenipher Namuyangu, the Kibuku Woman
MP supported the committee report saying that health centres should not even be
limited on the quantity of drugs they have.
Namuyangu who is the Minister
of State for Local Government said that the issues raised by PAC are pertinent
and that there is need for a joint fight against corruption.
//Cue in: “many of the…
Cue out:…I thank you.”//
David Bahati, the Minister of
State for Planning said that the Ministry of Health will be able to respond to
issues raised in the subsequent Treasury Memorandum.
A Treasury Memorandum means an
action report by the Minister or government detailing actions taken on
recommendations of parliament arising from a report.