John Hirya, a government employed driver recruited by the Health Service Commission and posted to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital by the ministry of Health was in mid 2012 intercepted by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) anti smuggling squad when he was coming back from Busia where he had gone with the government ambulance reg no UG 3702M to transport smuggled supermatch cigarettes from the border town of Busia.
It was not his first time; Hirya had been doing this for some time until he faced the wrath of URA. On that fateful day, Hirya as usual sneaked the ambulance out of the hospital without official authorization and drove to the border town.
However, on his way back with the smuggled cigarettes, the anti smuggling squad of URA followed him and gave a spirited chase which lasted for over 30 minutes.
Realizing that he could not beat the chasing officials, he parked the ambulance, abandoned it as he took off for his dear life. The ambulance was towed by URA officials and parked at their offices on Republic Street, Mbale Municipality.
On the urging of the Hospital management however, the ambulance was released but on condition that it should never be seen on the road again.
Therefore, the ambulance was grounded not on mechanical grounds but rather legal. In fact Mbale hospital operated without an ambulance until the ministry very recently came to its rescue with two new ambulances.
The case of Hirya is not only an abuse of a government vehicle but of an ambulance that is purposely for transporting patients on emergency needs.
According to the oxford dictionary, an ambulance is a vehicle with special equipment, used for taking sick or injured people to a hospital. Ambulances are not even used for transporting dead bodies as this would be an abuse as well.
When contacted, Louis Muhindo, the principal Hospital Administrator at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital confirmed that indeed Hirya who was their driver got involvement in smuggling of supermatch cigarettes using the hospital ambulance and that it was arrested by URA officials.
He however, added that the said driver did not go scot-free; he was interdicted and has since gone into hiding.
However, we have established that Hirya is working with another company in Kampala. His case was not reported to police nor was it taken to courts of law.
On the measures the hospital has undertaken to protect government vehicles Muhindo said, “We have re-enforced the government’s policies that guide and regulate all government vehicles.
“For instance, a vehicle can only leave the hospital parking yard on authorization,” he said, adding that the ambulance in question was truly grounded as a result of that incident but that the hospital received two other new ambulances and that the grounded ambulance will be auctioned soon.