While people living with HIV were grappling with shortage of anti-retroviral drugs last year, over sh43.9b meant for buying the drugs was lying idle in the government coffers.
According to the latest Auditor General's report released last week, the health ministry had received $24m (about 51.8b) from Global Fund to procure HIV/AIDS medicines.
This, according to the report covering the period ending June 2011, was received in two disbursements of $4.2m (about sh8b) in November 2009 and $19.9m (about sh43b) in June 2010.
Out of this amount, only sh7.9b (about 15.4%) was spent on procurement of ARVs and paying the Program Coordinator's salary leaving unutilised balance of sh43.9b.
This, the AG says, reflects low absorption capacity of the project funds, which makes the attainment of the intended objectives within the stated time impossible.
However, the report adds that non-utlisation of the funds could be due to the delay in the release of the funds from the donors. The report recommends that the management of the health ministry "should follow up the matter to ensure that there is timely release of the project funds to enable implementation of all agreed activities."
In response to the audit report, the Ministry of Health explained that they had addressed the problem by appointing the National Medical Stores as the procurement agent for pharmaceuticals and health supplies for the public sector.
This move was designed to improve funds absorption since most of the money is meant for buying pharmaceuticals and health supplies.
People living with HIV reacted angrily to the news that the health ministry had failed to spend money meant for the drugs. "This is unbelievable," said a 35-year-old Harriet Asiimwe, a resident in Kibaale district, who has been on anti-retroviral drugs for three years.
During the course of last year, her health centre often ran out of ARVs.