The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) which is Uganda’s central testing centre for samples for Covid-19 has revealed that it has not received any Covid-related funding from government and has been forced to divert a sum of Shs 780m meant for other programs, to facilitate the COVID-19 activities.
The revelation was made by the UVRI Director, Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu while appearing before the Parliament Public Accounts Committee chaired by Chwa West MP, Okin Ojara.
Prof. Kaleebu said that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, government has never given any funds to the institution that is running most of the Coronavirus tests.
The Uganda Virus Research Institute is a medical research institute owned by government that carries out research on communicable diseases in man and animals with emphasis on viral transmitted infections.
The institute which hosts a regional referral lab on influenza virus has for several months single handedly carried out Coronavirus research and tests in the country, before the Ministry of Health brought on board over 9 other laboratories in the country.
Prof. Kaleebu told Members of Parliament (MPs) that the institute has had to suspend all other activities for the 3rd and 4th Quarters which prompted them to divert Shs780 million from other programs in order to fund COVID 19 activities.
Kaleebu noted that the institute presented a budget of USD 1.7 million to the Ministry of Health to help fund COVID-19 activities but to date no funds have been availed.
We have provided services to this country with no funds from the treasury, its us working with our partners, writing letters here and there and being able to put the country where it is now; Uganda has the biggest testing centre in East Africa, Prof. Kaleebu said.
He added that most of the funds that have aided the institute to carry on with activities have come in from donors and partners like the World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the Jack Ma Foundation.
“The only money we have had from the treasury is our budget of about Shs780m, but if you compute how much we have used in testing its in billions of money.
The legislators wondered why UVRI has never received money yet Parliament approved a supplementary budget of Shs304bn to facilitate COVID-19 activities.
In response, Prof. Kaleebu noted: “Yes, you approved a supplementary budget for COVID-19, but we have never received even a single coin, apart from this week when we gave allowances to staff. All the money went through the Ministry of Health but I think they could be facing procurement challenges which we also faced, it’s good they are facing it now”.