Nwoya VHTs down tools, SOPs abandoned, leaders disagree on Covid-19 budget

Nwoya District Covid-19 Task Force sit in a meeting.

It has emerged that Village Health Team (VHT) members in Alero Sub-county, Nwoya District have downed their tools over insufficient funds to facilitate the enforcement of Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The Nwoya Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Ms Agnes Ebong Akello, told Heads of the Task Force Coordination Committee of the District Covid-19 Task Force yesterday (Wednesday) that her office is awash with complaints that people in almost all markets and at trading centres in Alero sub-county are no longer adhering to the SOPs set by the Ministry of Health.

She said the lack of financial motivation from the district has incapacitated work of the lower task force members at village level in the fight against Covid-19, thus, putting the lives of people at stake.

‘We have received complaints that already people are back to normal almost in all markets in Alero sub-county. People are no longer washing their hands, they are not wearing face masks anymore plus other SOPs because local leaders have laid down their tools due to lack of motivation given the delay in giving out money released to fight Covid-19.” Ms Akello told the committee.

This was to notify leaders and give people who attend those markets a benefit of doubt or else those markets shall be closed to serve as a deterrent to others.

Leaders disagree on Covid-19 budget

In July 2021, the Ministry of Local Government sent Shs198m to Nwoya district local government to facilitate the Covid-19 response.

In the district budgetary apportionments, the VHT was allocated Shs48.4m, surveillance team was allotted Shs90m, task force allowance was budgeted at Shs37.5m while vehicle maintenance was apportioned Shs22.5m.

The budget breakdown that was reportedly produced by the Nwoya District Health Officer, Dr Jennet Oola, the Social Mobilisation Committee was allocated Shs22.8m, Home Based Care was allotted Shs23m; case management was allocated Shs8.8m while Coordination Committee was given Shs37.6m.

However, the District Covid-19 Task Force refused to approve the budget breakdown for the second wave of Covid-19 response citing irregularities.

The budget read by the RDC could not even go past the first item of Social Mobilisation Committee as all heads of committees who attended the previous coordination meeting said they were not aware of the budget presented pointing a lot of readjustments made.

Although members tried to analyse the budget, they were defeated and were compelled to summon the Assistant District Health Officer in charge of maternal, child health and nursing, Isaac Okello Wonyima, who represented Dr Oola who was away for a meeting in Lira district.

When asked about the budget, Mr Wonyima said he was not aware of the budgetary allocations; causing anger among the members.

“Unfortunately, I was away and just received the notification on email sent by Dr Oola to present in just less than 24 hours ago. So, I can’t explain it,” said Mr Wonyima.

This prompted the task force to throw away the budget with the RDC saying it can only be approved after being worked on again.

The budget committee was given up to tomorrow (Friday) to have disbursed the money for the various designated activities.

“The money is not from anyone’s pocket that one can dictate on its use. Then, how shall we expect the local leaders to help us if we cannot help them? Ms Akello asked.

“The money looks little. But it is very important to the local leaders in particular as a motivation”, she continued.

She observed that there was ineffectiveness among the workers since it is two months now the money lying idle since it was released in July this year.

“In fact I am going to write to the government about this. It’s a direct move to sabotage government programmes of fighting Covid-19.  

The Nwoya District Vice Chairman who is also the Secretary for Finance, Kenneth Odong, said the same budget breakdown was drafted before the government released the funds.

“I personally saw this same draft budget in July 2021 before the government fund was released and it is not in line with the money released,” said Mr Odong.

He blamed the committee for coming up with such a budget yet there was already a clear guideline on how the money should be used from the ministry.

In the 2020/2021 financial year, Nwoya district received Shs1150m for the first wave of Covid-19 response that nearly tore apart Nwoya district task force over a similar scenario.

Mr Francis Ojok Opira, the Lapono village chairman in Anaka sub-county, Nwoya district told our reporter that currently he is faced with challenges in implementing the Covid-19 guidelines.

“As I speak right now, I have seven people in the home based care that I am supposed to follow yet I have not received any single cent from the district task force. I even don’t have protective gears when following the patients under the home base care and I am forced to dig into my pocket to avoid the risk of getting the infection.” Said Mr Ojok.

Mr Ojok also said often times he is forced to buy hand washing facilities for families where cases are reported with hope that the Covid-19 money will be sent to them.

“So, in a nutshell, the situation is alarming outside. Although I have not laid down my tool like others, I call on the district authority to speed up the process of sending us the money,” he said.

Mr John Paul Onyee the Nwoya District Principle Secretary who represented the Chief Administrative Officer said the issue will be solved before tomorrow.

“I am hopeful that we shall convene an urgent meeting to rectify the mess and by September 17, 2021, we shall have disbursed the money for use” he promised.

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