By Damba Rogers.
The Makerere Visitation Committee says the University’s hospital should be probed for acts of fraud. This after it discovered irregularities in expenditures and what appeared like inflated bills.
The report which was recently handed over to President Museveni said the investigations would help to streamline operations of the University hospital.
The committee, set up by President Yoweri Museveni in November 2016, found that the expenditure for laboratory services in 2014/2015 increased more than four times compared what was incurred in the financial year 2013/2014.
The auditors reportedly did not get satisfactory justification for this massive increment.
The auditors found that the University hospital in financial 2015/16 paid over 708 million shillings for medical/veterinary supplies yet it had only budgeted for One hundred and seventy five million shillings. No explanation was made regarding the purchase of veterinary supplies in a hospital.
The University 0n 12th October, 1995 entered into an agreement with M/S Crystal Holdings Ltd for renting space and provision of Medical and Radiological laboratory services to Makerere University Hospital Clients. This agreement was renewed in 2014.
The University is said to have paid over 1.5 billion shillings to Crystal Holdings Ltd for the outsourced medical services in a three-year period.
The report shows that the University paid over one hundred and seventy five million shillings for laboratory services in 2013/14 financial year, over 876 million shillings in 2014/15 financial year and over 525 million shillings in the 2015/16 financial year for the same services.
A further drill down of this expenditure on individual student medical bills revealed a number of irregularities, for instance approximately 90% of the bills were for private Students who are only required to pay ten thousand shillings for University hospital registration.
The committee also discovered that the laboratory services were grossly abused through requests for unnecessary laboratory tests in a bid to inflate the figure billed by M/S Crystal Holdings Ltd to the University.
The report cites the example of 20th of March, 2015, where 80% of the Students who purportedly turned up for treatment underwent 11 tests including a patient whose chief complaint was itching of the eyes (allergic conjunctivitis).
A review of the patient files revealed that results for the numerous tests purportedly undertaken were not on file and that all lab requests seen lacked clinical notes to guide the lab technician.
According to the report, there were instances where the University was billed at rates much higher than what was stipulated in the agreement. For example, Complete Blood Count would be charged fifteen thousand shillings instead of ten thousand shillings, stool analysis would be charged fifteen thousand shillings instead of ten thousand shillings.
The University hospital according to the visitation Committee operated without a proper system of internal controls to ensure that the University was actually billed for the medical services rendered to Students.
“it was apparent that the University was incurring heavy costs on private Students who did not pay for such a service. In addition, some of the claims were inflated by tests that were either not done or were unnecessary.” reads the report.
The Visitation Committee recommended that the University should upgrade the University Hospital services with functional laboratory services to serve the staff and students on government and private sponsorship,
It also advised that privately sponsored students should pay for the services received from the hospital at subsidized rates.
The committee also recommended that the university reviews the Contract of M/s Crystal Holdings Ltd with a view of assessing performance and ironing out of any inefficiency that might be identified during such a review.
By the time the report was out, Makerere University council had accepted proposal to the takeover of the hospital management by the College of Health Sciences. Professor Charles Ibingira had previously told URN that the contract of M/s Crystal Holdings Ltd could not be extended since the college had taken over the hospital management.