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US injects $400m in health sector, calls for transparency

The Government must become more transparent in expenditure if Uganda is to continue receiving aid from donors, the out-going United States ambassador, Jerry Lanier has said.

In a speech that he referred to as a report card to ‘Ugandan shareholders’ and ‘American investors’, the envoy also pointed out that expectations have not been met in the democracy, governance and health sector.

“You as citizens and shareholders in the country need to make sure that democracy is strengthened over time, that freedoms are protected, that your electoral commission is independent, that the voter register is clean and you your leaders know very clearly what you, as shareholders in this enterprise want,” Lanier stated.

The ambassador who has been in Uganda since 2009 made the farewell remarks at his residence in Kololo. The Vice President, Edward Ssekandi was the chief guest at a ceremony attended by several ministers, MPs, envoys accredited to Uganda, members of civil society and American citizens attended. The US deputy ambassador, Virginia Blaser was also in attendance.

Lanier observed that while the bulk of US funds went into helping to provide for free, fair and democratic elections, there is mixed return on investment. “I will report to my shareholders (US citizens) that this is another area where expectations have not been met.”

“We will keep out minority investment and maintain our shares but be watchful for positive and negative signs and deal with them as they arise, assuring the extension and maturation of Uganda democracy,” he added.

Commenting on the health sector, Lanier noted that the US annually injects $400m in the sector but have not seen commensurate returns. He explained that the US investment was directly responsible for provision of the much needed ARV treatment that helps over 300,000 Ugandans cope with HIV infection.

“This is an area where you as shareholders (Ugandans) must take control and demand more return to your investment,” he advised. “Simply put, you as shareholders must require your leaders to be more effective, more transparent and more accountable.”

The ambassador disclosed that there have been calls to withdraw assistance to the health sector until the Ugandan government becomes accountable but the US has not yet become cynical. “However, your government must do more if it is to sustain the outside assistance it is now receiving.”

“Medicine goes missing; badly needed supplies are stolen and then sold; children and mothers continue to die in childbirth. There must be more transparency and accountability in the system. You deserve better care and treatment. You must demand more for your families and children. We will continue to help but the current system is not sustainable,” Lanier stated.

The envoy lamented that in the health sector, the US has spent far too much for paltry results. “You have lost far more lives due to failure of the health system than you have to foreign or domestic enemies and it’s time to devote the same attention, energy and seriousness to the health of the Ugandan people as you do to their security. It will be the best investment you ever make,” Lanier told Government.

The VP extolled the excellent relations Uganda enjoys with the US. He said the US and Uganda, “cordially and bilaterally agree on national, regional and global issues.”

“Uganda and the US have worked together in the war on terrorism with successful results,” Ssekandi pointed out.

By Henry Mukasa
The New Vision Newspaper
02 June 2012

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