What. actually happened. during Dr Makur Koryom. resign. as Undersecretary in the Ministry of Health
On 10th March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the noble Corona Virus Disease outbreak which, was first reported late in December 2019 in China, like Pandemic. In response, H. E. President Salva Kiir Mayardit formed a High-Level Taskforce under his Chairmanship and deputized by the First Vice President.
1. The Taskforce was tasked with providing political leadership at the highest level, mobilizing resources, and reinforcing efforts of the Ministry of Health and its Steering Committee and technical working groups on COVID-19.
2. The main objective was to protect and keep the country free of Corona Virus Disease.
3.The Taskforce embarked on its duties on Sunday 22nd March 2020, meeting and updating the public through daily statement dubbed as Communication from the Presidency on the status of the pandemic in South Sudan. Those days, members of the public knew how many cases and deaths due to COVID-19 occurred every evening whenever Dr. Makur Koryom updated the country on his daily briefing. On the contrary, check out with misinformed citizens of this country and you will not be surprised if they could not remember the last time, they heard or read any update on the COVID-19 situation in South Sudan.
4. The Taskforce adopted and approved the Initial Response plan developed by the Steering Committee.
5. The Taskforce adopted and approved a budget estimate of 5,480,404 million USD.
6. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning was subsequently instructed to raise and release the funds at the earliest convenience.
7. By this time, the country had only one Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Machine which is the gold standard for diagnosing the Corona Virus, four (4) ventilators, and not adequate health personnel to respond to the pandemic. Worst still, there were no intensive care facilities across the country.
8. The Taskforce and the Ministry of Health prioritized procurement of three (3) more PCR Machines from Sudan, procurement of adequate ventilators and related equipment, training of adequate staff, and establishment of at least ten (10) intensive care (ICU) facilities in the capitals of the 10 States.
These were placed on the top of the Must-do List of priorities. Unfortunately, and for understandable reasons, it took the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning about four (4) weeks to raise and release USD Two (2) million. And because of the competing needs, the task force decided the spending plan as hereunder:
(A). USD 1.4 Million as down payment (36%) of the contract for the procurement of COVID-19 commodities including ventilators from China worth about USD 3.8 Million. The remaining balance of the contract value was later disbursed directly by the Ministry of Finance and Economic planning to the contractor.
(B). USD 390,000, for the purchase, transportation, and installation of three (3) PCR machines, training, purchase of consumables, and payment of two expatriates working at Al Cardinal Kidney Hospital in Juba.
(C). USD 200,000 down payment for the environmental company contracted to disinfect airports and public places. The total contract value was USD 760,000.
(D). The remaining balance (out of the USD 2 Million which was directly disbursed to the Taskforce) was the only USD 10 000.
On 15th June 2020, the outgoing Undersecretary, Dr. Makur Koryom, handed over to the incumbent administration two (2) cheques worth USD 1.4 million and USD 1000,000 released by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in May and June 2020 respectively. Dr. Koryom also handed over a local currency account at the Bank of South Sudan worth SSP 48 million of COVID funds to the new administration of the Ministry.
It is worth mentioning here, for the general good that the members of the former High-Level Taskforce and their technical and support staff including Dr. Koryom never received incentives for steering COVID -19 response activities from March to the time they left the office in June 2020. This was seen as a National call and their interests received the least of their attention.
On the contrary, guess what happened? The funds mentioned in the preceding paragraph were later disbursed and paid as incentives to the members of the National Taskforce on COVID-19 (SSP 180,000 per person per week) and USD 10,000 was paid per person to some selected few doctors working at Juba Teaching and Referral Hospital and the University of Juba who had nothing to do with the COVID-19 response activities but to buy their loyalty, neglecting and leaving with nothing health foot soldiers and thousands of health workers deployed across the country and who walk from door to door in response to alerts and follow up of contacts and suspects of the Corona Virus Disease.
It suffices that Dr. Makur Koryom vacated his position in the Ministry of Health graciously clean of COVID-19 funds, but behind a legacy and a story to be told for generations of a public servant who never stained himself with what belongs to the public. The former Undersecretary has managed to handle himself courteously for the time given to him by the President to serve the nation.
*By* *Concern* *Youths*