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Former Ugandan Health Minister Charged with Embezzlement

A Ugandan court has charged a former health minister and two of his deputies with misappropriating funds contributed by an international AIDS donor organization. President Yoweri Museveni fired Jim Muhwezi on Tuesday and ordered an investigation into the health ministry, after its former director was alleged to have embezzled funds from the Global Fund for Children’s Vaccines and abused his office. Sources say the Swiss-based Global Fund suspended aid to Uganda, after about 45 million dollars earmarked for vaccines for Ugandan children were mismanaged. Meanwhile, other charges were lodged against the former health minister and his co-accused. The offenses include causing financial loss, embezzlement, and forgery of documents.

Kirunda Kivajinja is Uganda’s information minister. From the capital, Kampala he tells the Voice Of America that the health ministry is bedeviled with corruption.

“The ministry of health has been connected with a lot of scandals with the Global Fund, which prompted our president to appoint a judicial inquiry headed by a high court judge, which produced a report. Now, the government considered the report and passed out a white paper, which detailed out the action which needs to be taken and the cases that need to be investigated. Now, while we were waiting for that one, there was also some other report of some other funds, which were also not properly supervised,” Kivajinja said.

He said President Museveni ordered an investigation upon receiving a damaging report about the abuse in the health ministry.

“The president asked the inspector general of government to investigate the health ministry and it came out with a very damning report, to which the president said that this was a little too much and asked the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) to properly look at it and see if they can come up with charges and take those people to court for them to defend themselves,” he pointed out.

Kivajinja said the president takes action when he deems fit.

“You have to know the method of work of our president. He normally never acts on first report or allegations. And he always gives a lot of time, until things have really been taken out and then he acts swiftly,” he said.

He reiterated the president’s seriousness towards fighting graft.

“He has always been serious, and that is why we put up all those organs to fight corruption or to expose corruption,” he noted.

Kivajinja declined to comment on the whereabouts of the former health minister, although it was speculated he had eluded police.

“That one I don’t know, but as far as we are concerned, there is always a difference between the investigating arm of government and the other arms. I know that at least two of them were apprehended, and I think two have been charged,” he said.