Uganda: NMS Speaks on Drug Storage Amid Heated Debate in Parliament

Kampala — Parliament has recommended that National Medical Stores-NMS should face competition with other players in the field.

Legislators this Thursday afternoon approved parliament’s Public Accounts Committee- PAC, report carrying a recommendation that the monopoly of National Medical Stores be stopped.

The report on the findings of the Auditor General on the health sector for the financial years 2016/2017 to 2019/2020 underscored the need to address the issue of expiring drugs in health facilities.

The National Medical Stores is mandated to procure, store and distribute human medication and health-related consumable items to government owned heath units across the country.

In the report presented by PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the lack of essential medicines and health supplies is attributed to low supply and not only improper budgeting.

The committee also established that there are a lot of expired essential medicines and health supplies and that this is a result of the push-down where essential medicines and health supplies are sent down by NMS without requisition.

Nandala also noted that the essential medicines and health supplies sent are those which are about to expire and therefore have a short shelf life.

NMS speaks out

However, having comprehensively examined the three-year framework contracts NMS has with a number of its medicines’ suppliers including CIPLA/Quality Chemicals (for the anti-malarial medicines, ARVs and reproductive health items) and all the consequent Local Purchase Orders and call off orders, the IGG recently dismissed a whistleblower’s claims that NMS was deliberately purchasing medicines with a very short life span before expiry deliberately to occasion loss to the Government.

NMS said the problem of quick expiring medicines only related to medicines the Ministry received as donations, passed on to NMS for storage.

The quick-expiring donated medicines valued at Shs 140m were handed over to NMS at a time when they “weren’t meeting the requirement of 75% shelf life,” something that no one can appropriately blame on NMS because the entity never participated in the medicines’ procurement but only received them as donations.

Robert Centenary, the Kasese Municipality MP agreed that NMS should work like other medical suppliers and health centres purchase freely.

Jenipher Namuyangu, the Kibuku Woman MP supported the committee report saying that health centres should not even be limited on the quantity of drugs they have.

Namuyangu who is the Minister of State for Local Government said that the issues raised by PAC are pertinent.

Officials said NMS deserved commendation for registering a medicines expiry rate of 0.5% which is below the WHO recommended standard rate of 5%.

This simply means that, whereas cases of procured medicines expiring in the warehouse can’t be avoided as per the nature of medicines, in the case of NMS only medicines worth 0.5% of the total procurement in a FY gets disposed upon expiring on the shelf.

The WHO considers up to 5% as acceptable but the NMS management is now at 0.5% in comparison with the governing Board target of 2%.

David Bahati, the Minister of State for Planning said that the Ministry of Health will be able to respond to issues raised in the subsequent Treasury Memorandum.

A Treasury Memorandum means an action report by the Minister or government detailing actions taken on recommendations of parliament arising from a report

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