Uganda, 09 April 2012 (allAfrica) - While people living with HIV/AIDS were grappling with shortage of anti-retroviral drugs last year, over sh43.9b meant for buying the drugs was lying idle in the government coffers, findings of an audit report have revealed.
According to the latest Auditor General's report released last week, the health ministry had received $24m (about 51.8b) from Global Fund to procure HIV/AIDS drugs.
This, according to the report covering the period ending June 2011, was received in two disbursements of $4.2m (about sh8b) in November 2009 and $19.9m (about sh43b) in June 2010.
Out of this amount, only sh7.9b (about 15.4%) was spent on procurement of ARVs and paying the program coordinator's salary, leaving an unutilized balance of sh43.9b.
The AG, Peter Nyombi says this reflects low absorption capacity of the project funds, which makes the attainment of the intended objectives within the stated time impossible.
However, the report adds that non-utilization of the funds could be due to the delay in the release of the funds from the donors.
The report calls for positive action as regards the findings.
"The health ministry should follow up the matter to ensure that there is timely release of the project funds to enable implementation of all agreed activities," it recommends.
In response to the audit report, the Ministry of Health explained that they had addressed the problem by appointing the National Medical Stores as the procurement agent for pharmaceuticals and health supplies for the public sector.
This move was designed to improve funds absorption since most of the money is meant for buying pharmaceuticals and health supplies.
People living with HIV/AIDS were bitter with the news that the health ministry had failed to spend money meant for drugs that are meant to help them live longer lives.
"This is unbelievable," said a 35-year-old Harriet Asiimwe, a resident in Kibaale district, who has been on anti-retroviral drugs for three years.
During the course of last year, her health centre often ran out of ARVs.