The Inspector General of Police, Martin Ochola, has directed all commanders to swiftly curb the theft and selling of drugs meant for Ugandan health centers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
Ochola through the police’s Director for Operations Assistant Inspector General of Police –AIGP John Nuwagira, said that the country is facing rampant drug thefts. Other drugs which do not cross to DRC or South Sudan, Ochola says end up being sold to private health facilities within the country and the culprits have not been restrained by police despite the cases being reported.
“There are reported rampant cases of thefts of Uganda government labeled drugs which are sold to private health facilities and some neighboring countries DRC and the Republic of South Sudan. Reports from the National Drug Authority show that the government stocks enough drugs but much of it is sold to cartels involving health workers,” reads the directive.
Many parts of the DRC and South Sudan have for years been riddled with civil conflicts where several areas are under the control of armed groups. It is suspected that drugs stolen in Uganda end up being sold to various militia groups which buy them at higher costs since they cannot access pharmacies which are often located in urban areas.
Other than the drugs smuggled to DRC or South Sudan, many private health facilities sell government-labeled drugs to civilians who do not even bother to report them even when they clearly see government labels on them. These acts, Ochola said undermine service delivery to Ugandans and discredit the government.
“Drug thefts undermined service delivery to Ugandans and discredited the government. You are therefore directed to intensify intelligence gathering and investigations by Crime Intelligence and Criminal Investigations Directorate respectively,” the directive further reads.
The 2021 Inspector General of Government (IGG) report indicates that theft or embezzlement of medicines and equipment is the leading type of corruption in the healthcare sector. These acts, IGG indicates lead to loss of budget, non-delivery of purchased medicine, and also impact patients’ lives.
“…patients are frequently forced to purchase medicines on the black market despite that they are entitled to receive them free of charge. This can potentially lead to negative health outcomes as patients may buy substandard or falsified medicines or may not be able to afford to access medicines at all,” IGG states in the 2021 report.
As part of the solution to drug thefts from public hospitals and centers, Ochola has directed Kampala Metropolitan Police Command, Regional Police Commanders, District Police Commanders, and all unit heads to conduct community mobilization and sensitization about the dangers of the vice.
“Enumerate their (communities) their roles in preventing it. This should be done by all commanders including CLOs [community liaison officers]. Work with key stakeholders in your respective areas of responsibility to have multiple layers of drug monitoring teams in each area of responsibility,” commanders directed.
Ochola also tasked commanders to support all agencies’ enforcement against drug thefts.
Commanders have also been ordered to make monthly reports to the IGP on the operations and efforts made to curb drug thefts.