Thursday 8 June 2017

Civil Society Organisations National AIDS Trust Fund recommendations

Civil society organisations (CSOs) have recommended amendments to the National AIDS Trust Fund Statutory Instruments.

According to a joint CSOs statement, CSOs are strongly supportive of the establishment of the AIDS Trust Fund, “It represents an important opportunity to generate additional revenue for high impact efforts to end the AIDS crisis in Uganda. However, there are several areas of major concern regarding the draft Statutory Instruments that need to be addressed before these Instruments are passed by Parliament,” the statement reads in part and the recommendations are highlighted below:

1. Appointment of a representative of civil society and of people living with HIV and AIDS: We request that these two critical representatives only be selected by their respective constituencies. Donor governments have indicated the same standard for their representative. 

Action: amend 10 (2) (4) The members of the Board, except for a representative of the donors, a representative of people living with HIV and AIDS, and a representative of the civil society organisations; shall be appointed by the Minister, in consultation with the Minister responsible for finance. 

2. The amount of funding that would be raised by the currently proposed tax is too small to make an impact: Uganda’s unmet need for life saving HIV services is substantial. The National AIDS Trust Fund must include sources of revenue beyond 2% of the existing beverage tax described in the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act. Sources of additional taxation that would generate substantial additional resources should be prioritized of extractive industries such as oil and natural gas, payroll tax and/or simply collecting a proportion of overall national revenue.

Action: HIV Committee of Parliament must as a matter of urgency work with the Ministry of Finance to identify additional sources of revenue so that the AIDS Trust Fund makes a strong impact in closing Uganda’s HIV funding gap.

3. High impact interventions and additionality of revenue: The NATF must be additional rather than deducted from existing sources of HIV funding or displacing existing funding sources. Additionality must be monitored and tracked externally and a ‘maintenance of effort’ clause could be required to ensure the NATF is not deducted from Government investments.

In practice, the only way to truly ensure additionality is through using NATF funds to invest in inputs for which there is a clear baseline—in particular HIV treatment and other highest impact commodities. Monitoring additionality for other interventions such as trainings would be almost impossible. Revenue raised by the Fund should be ‘ring fenced,’ meaning that it cannot be directed for any other purpose—even if that means that revenue raised by the Fund sits idle.

Action: 7 (a) (i) and 7 (a) (ii) are too broad, and not consistent with the spirit of the mother law, which rightly focuses on commodities rather than soft inputs such as trainings or workshops. They are too vague and should be removed.

4. Transparency, meeting structure, and decisions of the Fund: In principle, meetings of the Board should be as transparent, open and democratic as possible. In practice that means observers should be welcome to attend meetings, minutes of meetings should be published rapidly, and all decisions made by the Trustees should be communicated to the public.

Action: Amend 17. Transactions of the Board to state: “17. (3) Board meetings shall be open to any observer and Board minutes and Board decisions shall be widely published (eg on a website and in print media), including decisions regarding how monies raised by the Fund will be spent, transactions of the Fund, and the results of all audits of financial accounts.” Further Amend “Schedule, Meetings of the Board” to reflect this approach to Board governance, eg “Meetings of the Board (5): The Chairperson shall permit observers to attend all meetings and the decisions of all meetings shall be widely and publicly transmitted, such as transactions of the Fund, and the results of all audits of financial accounts.”

5. Independence of the Fund: The Fund should be established as an independent body, housed separately from possible beneficiaries including the Uganda AIDS Commission and the Ministry of Health. The governance structure should be transparently and independently managed by a multi stakeholder group that has no fiduciary interest. In addition, the accounting books associated with the Fund must be available at all times for scrutiny by any party. Revenue raised by the Fund should be ‘ring fenced,’ meaning that it cannot be directed for any other purpose—even if that means that revenue raised by the Fund sits idle. 

Sarah Tumwebaze
Media and Communications officer

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