This newspaper in its November 5-18 edition opened a can of worms when it broke the story of missing funds released to develop the local Covid-19 vaccine.
The blockbuster ran under the screaming headline, “Uganda’s Covid-19 Vaccine Myth.”
The report quoting a group of whistle blowers who sent a missive to the government ombudsman, stated how the money meant for developing the local Covid-19 vaccine had been siphoned off, effectively bungling the project!
The report quoting highly knowledgeable sources concluded that there is no vaccine being developed and that the project was merely a creative cover-up of another such heists!
Before the IGG could proceed and investigate the matter, the MP for Ntungamo, YonaMusinguzi tabled a petition before the national assembly claiming how the Science, Technology and innovations minister, Dr Monica MuseneroMasanza faked payments to a number of scientists who she didn’t in actual sense issue a penny out of the kitty!
The national assembly was alarmed by the disclosures of Musinguzi. The Deputy Speaker Anita Among quickly appointed a select committee to look into yet another disturbing national shame.
Presiding over the National Assembly on November 9, Among gave the select committee a two-week ultimatum to investigate whether there is indeed a Covid-19 vaccine being developed in Uganda currently,how much money have been so far released for the project and how the public funds have been spent.
The probe committee is chaired by Xavier Kyomya. It comprises of other National Unity Platform (NUP) and Butambala MP, Aisha Kabanda, NRM’s lawmakers, Tony Away(Nwoya) and Solomon Siwany (Bukhooli) as well as independent MP, Paul Omara (Otukecounty).
But while the saga enlisted a lot of public concern and ire given that this isn’t the first time for government bureaucrats to steal funds meant for fighting epidemics, the President on the other hand didn’t fancy the idea of probing his now blue-eyed scientist!
Gen.Yoweri Museveni who only recently publicly declared a war on corruption going on to sit down members of cabinet to warn them how he isn’t going any longer to spare anyone caught dipping fingers into the public coffers, in a November 10 public response to the parliamentary inquiry into the missing funds warned MPs and anyone else to stop interfering with his ‘decorated scientist or else face his wrath!
Museveni was so emphatic that he equated antagonizing Musenero to attacking a ‘decorated general of Uganda’s Scientific Community’ which he contends, amounts to a grave crime!
Closing the Science, Technology and Innovations week and exhibition that washeld at Kololo airstrip on November 10, Museveni stated,” That girl has contributed a lot to the nation. She played a big role in the fight against Ebola and now Covid-19.”
Museveni pointed at the people who he thinks are fighting Musenero. He suggests Musenero’s haters work with the Ministry of Health. He bases his accusations on a past incident where the former Director of Health Services, Dr. Sam Zaramba rejected his instructions to give her a job.
“Can you imagine, they rejected orders by the commander,” the furious Museveni dug in. After being rejected, Museveni offered Musenero a job in State House as his advisor on epidemics.
Musenero is a vet the reason probably Dr.Zaramba refused Museveni’s instructions to place her under the ministry of health.
Encouraged by the favor showed by the President, Musenero is now going places telling off his accusers while labeling them as haters of her outstanding achievements.
From Covid to Tick vaccine?
In the story we opened up with, our credible sources reveal how the funds Musenero received from parliament under the guise of developing the local Covid-19 vaccine actually ended up in the project of developing a drug for combating ticks in cattle.
It should be recalled that early this year Makerere University’s College of College of Veterinary Medicine (CoVAB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the privately owned company Alfasan to produce an anti-tick vaccine.
The anti-tick vaccine has been inspired by similar measures in Australia and Cuba in controlling the disease causing vectors.
Given his passion for cattle farming, our sources say that President Museveni has embraced the innovation whole-heartedly, not only for selfish interests as a rancher but also as a patriot who wishes to eradicate the pests from the face of Uganda. But the devil, as they say is always in the detail.
DrMusenero, is veterinary scholaralthough we don’t by this mean she is involved in the project of developing a drug for the ticks in cattle nor that she diverted the Corona vaccine funds to the livestock drug project.
What we know is that the vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe has since joined the bandwagon of advocates defending Musenero.
Nawangwe formerly headed CoVAB before his current elevation. He was replaced by Prof.Kabasa.
During his time as head of CoVAB, Nawangwe did impressive work as far as cattle improvement is concerned.
He is credited for starting the Nakyesasa animal farm where hybrid cattle are crossed with local breeds to produce improved local breeds and for developing highly nutritious cattle pastures
But to the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), much as the President warned MPs and anyone else to stop antagonizing Musenero or else face his wrath, isn’t scared of such threats.
The party demands that the president backs off investigations into the saga.
If the president continues to interfere with the inquiry into the missing public funds, the party warns, he runs the risk of being understood as a complicit in the swindle.
“If the president didn’t partake of the funds, he shouldn’t be worried of an inquiry into the public funds,” the party’s publicist, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda submits.
Prove your Minister’s innocence
Nganda in the alternative asks the president to turn up in parliament and prove Musenero didn’t swindle the funds other than ‘ issuing threats to parliament.’
Before issuing the public response, Ssemujju had raised the matter on the floor of parliament on November 11 and asked the speaker of parliament, Jacob Oulanyah to ask Museveni to withdraw the threats.
“What the president said is frightening. He said he will come for MPs,” Ssemujju noted.
In the previous parliaments, the Kira municipality lawmakers recollects, how a number of MPs ended up arrested and detained following such outbursts by the president.
Nganda then asked Oulanyah to ask the president not to ever again issue threats to parliament and individual MPs who, he observes, are protected by the law to do their work.
Oulanyah defends Museveni
The speaker states how the president said what he said because he is passionate of science and technology!
“We have all said things in places we shouldn’t have said them and in circumstances when we shouldn’t have said them. Mostly likely, the president also said things in that manner,” Oulanyah submitted.
He asked the MPs to ignore what the president said because, the speaker submits, he didn’t mean to threaten parliament.
Clear your name
The chief petitioner, Ntungamo lawmaker YonaMusinguzi following threats of coming for him, also stepped out to deny fighting Musenero.
The president, Musinguzi submits: “Should be glad with me since am helping him to fight the corrupt around him.”
The lawmaker is eager to meet the president, if the opportunity presents itself, in order to share with him the evidence he possesses against Musenero.
“I want to prove to the president am not running any vendetta against the minister or a tool being used to fight her,” he asserts.
Musinguzi goes on to counsel Musenero to exploit the parliamentary inquiry to prove she didn’t swindle the funds.
Anti-graft activist, Cissy Kagaba contributes that by defending Musenero, the President is sending out a message that he isn’t interested in fighting corruption.
“The president should allow the wheel of due process to go full circle,” the anti-corruption coalition guru demands.
Well, Kagaba finds herself in an embarrassing situation after praising the President in an article she wrote in the Weekly Observer of October 31 for coming out, though belatedly, and unequivocally tell members of his cabinet to stop engaging in corruption.
Museveni had summoned his new ministers and told them how he is going to use his sixth term to wipe out corruption from the face of the country. What Museveni said elated Kagaba so much that she reached for pen and paper to write a thank you letter to the president!
History as a judge
President Museveni has for countless times issued ultimatums to end corruption just as he did the last time he addressed his new cabinet. But corruption has kept flourishing and flourishing (pun intended) each time he has vowed to erase it from his government!
In what passed for a cynical show, the President towards the elections led a walk through the streets of Kampala to figuratively walk corruption out of the country!
But the Head of State would stun the country a few weeks later by following his reelection, appointing a self-confessed graft convict to his cabinet!
Parliament refused to clear the nominee, but the president amid a lot of disapproval from the public went ahead and swore in the convict anyway!
A well as appointing a self-confessed graft convict, Museveni re-appointed another military general who parliament censured in the past for corruption and faced a probe as well for swindling public funds meant for HIV patients to cabinet!
From re-appointing the people renowned for corruption into his cabinet and elsewhere in government to stating in public how he can’t abandon his friends no matter what to defending the corrupt as well as pledging to pay for their legal fees, the president has almost done it.
Majority of Ugandans have witnessed over many years Museveni giving lipservice to the fight against corruption that they no longer have confidence in his pledges about ending the vampire that has caused untold hemorrhage to the public treasury.
In fact, majority of analysts are now of the considered view that corruption is the oil that drives the regime in Uganda without which it can ground to a quick and complete halt.
Given the fact that the national assembly is largely populated by lawmakers easy to sway by the president, it would be risky to bet on the cowed MPs censuring Musenero let alone hearing the petition leading to her censure and remembering that the president has since threatened to come for MPs antagonizing his minister.