KAMPALA: The Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, Dr. Baterana Byarugabawants the court to throw out the evidence and charges brought against him by the State House Health Monitoring Unit on the basis of lack of jurisdiction.
This comes after the hospital director was this week charged with embezzlement, fraudulent accounting, abuse of office, and causing financial loss to the government worth over 28 billion shillings in the past four years.
The charges were made following the arrest of Dr. Baterana Byarugaba by the Health Monitoring Unit from his office at the hospital. According to the head of the health monitoring unit, Dr. Warren Namaara, they decided to arrest Byarugaba after he didn’t show up to meet with them.
In an application filed by Dr. Byarugaba’s lawyers, Tumwebaze Emmanuel Advocates and Solicitors, yesterday at the Civil Division of the High Court, the petitioner claims that the investigations and his arrest were unlawfully carried out since the Health Monitoring Unit has no legal authority to carry out investigations or even write a report that can be relied upon by the Permanent Secretary, Diana Atwine, or the Chairperson of the Management Board of Mulago National Referral Hospital, Edward Kanyewigye.
The petition reads in part: “A declaration that the State House Health Monitoring Unit headed by the 2nd Respondent has no legal authority and capacity to summon, investigate, and arrest any citizen of Uganda on complaints and matters lodged and being investigated by the Uganda Police Force.”
Dr. Byarugaba also wants the court to declare the report null and void, saying, “A declaration that the investigative review report made by the Health Monitoring Unit relating to financial matters of Mulago National Referral Hospital is null and void.”
However, the HMU director, Dr. Warren Namara, says his unit has the authority to investigate Mulago and other health services in the country and hold them accountable. Dr. Namara says the unit works with CID police, which carries out investigations and records statements on their behalf.
“The HMU doesn’t arrest. The police make an arrest, conduct an investigation, and take a statement.Our job is the professional part, but we don’t arrest, we don’t detain, and we don’t try. In order to do our job, we collaborate with Uganda Police, the Judiciary, and the Ministry of Health.don’t arrest him, nor do we detain him, but the police are the ones recording statements from me at our offices because we have a CID section, “he said.
The Health Monitoring Unit was established in August 2009 by Presidential Directive under Article 171 of the Republic of Uganda’s Constitution (1995) as a Medicines/Health Services Delivery Unit in response to the country’s persistent public outcry about poor medicine and health services delivery.
The unit works with qualified, trained police investigators who carry out investigations and arrests. People who are arrested end up in court and have previously served jail sentences for stealing medical equipment.
Dr. Byarugaba was released on bond on Thursday afternoon from Jinja Road Police Station, where he had spent two nights. He is expected to report to the station next week on March 9. However, he has also been interdicted by Dr. Atwine.
In a letter addressed to Byarugaba, the permanent secretary asked him to hand over his office to his deputy, Dr. Rosemary Byanyiima.
Persuant to Section F-s and F-r of the Public Service Standing Orders, 2021, you are hereby interdicted from duty to pave the way for investigations and you will receive half pay with immediate effect until the charges against you have been cleared, the letter reads in part.
Dr. Byarugaba’s lawyers have since come to say that they are also going to file for an injunction on their client’s interdiction since he was not given a chance to defend himself before the hospital board.