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Media Misled About Minister Jane Ruth Aceng And W.H.O Billions

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By Joseph Oryem
A few days ago, online media reports popped up maliciously accusing Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng of something which she couldn’t have done even if she were to be the reckless dishonest person the authors intended to portray. The story talked about her using W.H.O to fraudulently access billions of shillings which is simply not possible. That there was USD1M which came from African Development Bank ostensibly to support the Ebola response and ended up coming to her through W.H.O as a conduit!

Just imagine W.H.O engaging themselves in something like that. Can anyone succeed doing that knowing how impeccable the UN controls and financial systems are? How then do they account for so much money to their superiors in Geneva? The story simply depicted and portrayed how simplistic it’s authors were.

That a journalist can allege one accessing and eating public money through the W.H.O systems is indicative of an author who doesn’t know how the the UN systems and agencies operate. It would be easier for anyone to eat such money through the GoU channels than United Nations. Any basic and effective journalist ought to know that.

The money being talked about was appropriately solicited from AfDB by the W.H.O Uganda Office whose officials characteristically fundraised by approaching several bilateral and multilateral agencies operating in or with representatives in Uganda to contribute towards the country’s overall Ebola response.

There is simply no way the Ministry of Health could be involved in the manner described by the authors of the online story. Briefly what happens is that the W.H.O autonomously or independently originates it’s funding request to say AfDB, or any other potential funder, and all the GoU does or is required/permitted to do is to signal its no objection to the arrangement and the same is done by the Finance Ministry and not one of Health which Dr. Aceng heads as the political leader.

Effective basic journalism ought to take cognisance of that basic fact as opposed to merely politicising and going after Dr. Aceng who merely is the political leader of the health sector. In any case, the money being so ineptly talked about [USD1m] hasn’t yet been released or made available by AfDB to even the W.H.O which is supposed to use it to roll out programs beneficial to the Ugandan people. All that is in place thus far is a commitment that they (AfDB) will make that contribution as a grant to enable W.H.O operations. When time comes and it’s released, the money goes to W.H.O to support implementation of planned and pre-approved activities over which a Minister like Aceng can never have any control.

Clearly targeted at politically demonizing the Minister and portray her as unfit to continue holding the Ministerial post besides being a woman MP for her district, the same online media story hinted on the change of source from where vaccines (to facilitate vaccination of children and infants in Uganda against Rota virus) will be coming from going forward.

The authors ineptly stated that the source where these vaccines are purchased was being changed by W. H.O at the instigation of Dr. Aceng. How can this ever be possible? Whoever knows how W.H.O, and all these UN agencies, operate would know this is simply not possible. Recently GAVI, through which procurement and purchase of such mass vaccines is effected, directed that all African countries that are recipient of it’s vaccines-related support will have to be supplied with Rotasil vaccine which is manufactured by Serum Institute of India and not by GSK of Germany which manufactures Rotavix (which GAVI decided couldn’t be relied upon anymore).

Gratefully, there is a recent official GAVI communication to that effect: not just to W.H.O Uganda office but all the other African countries that continue to be recipients of W.H.O-coordinated and validated support under the GAVI program. Dr. Aceng, mere Minister in government of Uganda, must be such a powerful actor to influence such high level decision-making inside GAVI.

There was also mention about routine changes of staff under the Health Ministry’s immunization program which isn’t as acrimonious as was portrayed. Some staff have previously, as expected, been assigned new roles besides others who landed better opportunities and eased out on their own volition, which no one can legally prevent them from doing.

What is also true, yet the authors didn’t address their mind to it, is that there has been some involuntary departures of contract staff from W.H.O Ugandan office affecting about 20 short contract employees who the organization hasn’t been able to retain following the conclusion of Ebola related operations. These are medics in the category of epidemiologists etal.

They had been part of the 30 basically data collection and surveillance enablers, doing basic work in the field, but have had to involuntarily leave at the end of their contract period. Cash-constrained W.H.O hasn’t been able to retain them since the anti-Ebola operations, for which they had been taken on (as temporary staff), have since come to an end.

Only 10 out of the original 30 such epidemiologists and surveillance enablers have been kept around to finalize some of the pending work related to the Ebola response. These, naturally, have attracted envy among the 20 who have had to involuntarily leave. And some of the 20 terminated contract staff have been grumbling while threatening to engage in some malicious online propaganda campaign to aimed at disparaging the W.H.O in the hope that managers at it’s Kampala office can become cowed into calling them back. This too explains the very unfounded and anomalous online media reports.

The other misinformation related to the GAVI money, which was reprogrammed to amplify the purchase of COVID test kits which the W.H.O procured and promptly passed on to National Medical Stores. There was delay relating to the arrival of those test kits because of the logistics movement complications deriving from the world-wide COVID-19 lockdown which globally paralysed movement of things, logistics and persons for a significant period of time. The author is a veteran community work on several donor-enabled programs and interventions in Karamoja sub region.

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