Over the years, the section has grown from a small administration and finance services section headed by a senior administrator supporting the operations at the different Unit stations to a large section currently headed by a Director of Operations. In the past 25 years, this section has contributed to the growth of the Unit giving administrative, finance, procurement, human resource, IT and maintenance services. This support saw the growth of the Unit in terms of staffing to levels above 400 staff at some stage, expansion of offices and laboratories. Those who have worked for the organization for a number of years have witnessed the transformation including that from use of radio calls and fax machines to the introduction of the internet in 1996 and mobile phones in the later years making communication more efficient including to remote rural areas.
Some of the major infrastructure investments include the construction of the main offices in Entebbe; the Kyamulibwa offices, the main laboratories in Entebbe, the UVRI clinic (cofounded with IAVI), the Entebbe grade B (cofounded with IAVI), the Masaka offices, the Entebbe grade A clinics, Staff houses in Kyamulibwa and in Entebbe, IT infrastructure and a liquid Nitrogen plant. Other major investments have been the purchase of Kampala offices, the contribution to the UVRI training building (cofounded with Wellcome Trust) and the electrical upgrades.
In 2014 the Unit rolled out the new MS Dynamics, Microsoft reporting ERP, having upgraded its old accounting systems. The system will now be capable of being backed up through MRC in Harwell and will enable much improved financial reporting capacity and internal control compared to previous years.
There will also be a new Scientific Research Support Office within the finance section to help Researchers with different aspects of their grants including support in developing a budget for grant application through to financial reporting.
The Procurement section, based at the Entebbe office is charged with obtaining the required Unit supplies. Since 2013 international procurement has been migrated onto the Research Council's UK ERP and is carried out by the Shared Service Centre SSC in Swindon via the Oracle platform.
Stores systems are also due to be overhauled through the introduction of MS dynamics with the likely introduction of bar coding and improvement to the stores controls and automated re-ordering of fast moving items to avoid stock outs.
The IT section serves approximately 300 users across the four field stations plus the Grade A clinic at Entebbe, and supports a wide range of software accessible over the Unit network from standard business applications, e mail and Microsoft Office suite to statistical and specialist application programmes designed for laboratory equipment. Portable internet access means that the Unit is now also considering how best to incorporate this technology into its IT systems whilst protecting the security of the Unit systems, new firewalls and servers have been acquired and put into use at all of the Stations and there has been an investment of over £250,000 from MRC Head office in upgrading the IT systems at the Unit since 2011. The Unit has built a disaster recovery centre at the Entebbe site which backs up all of the main production data in real time and will also be utilised by the new bio-informatics centre. The Unit now utilises fibre optic connections extensively, since the linking of the Continent via undersea cables to Europe and the Middle East, and no longer uses the former VSAT technology which was expensive and slow. Entebbe, Kampala and Masaka Stations now have a fibre optic connection to the internet which provides average download speeds of up to 2mbps whilst the Kyamlibuwa Station connects to the internet through a Wimax and microwave link. With the availability of sufficient band with, the Unit is considering the adoption of IP telephone systems in an effort to reduce the monthly cost of telephone calls as well as using VOIP video conferencing more widely.
Through a £2.8mn grant from MRC the Entebbe site in conjunction with the Sanger Institute Cambridge is constructing a new bioinformatics centre which will be located in the lower floor of the Training building. The bio informatics centre is an extremely ambitious project and will be the first of its type in East Africa and will aim to provide bio informatics processing capacity on a regional scale.