Govt seeks to borrow more for NUSAF III – hoping for more impact
After every severe war, community reconstruction is usually the most expected undertaking by the government. In doing so, the government usually initiates various peace and rebuilding programs to restore what was lost though their other most valuables which can’t be recovered like life and time.
The 15 year, civil war in Northern Uganda left thousands and thousands of people dead, disrupted and displaced people’s lives, left many children out of school and many atrocities were committed against the women and girl child. The region experienced grave social and economic disruption as well: household assets and other investments were shattered, disabling the population to develop their livelihoods.
In 2003, the Government of Uganda together with its development partner, the World Bank, initiated the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) that was and is still being implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). This was after realizing that despite the significant gains in reducing poverty recorded throughout the country, the North and East had lagged behind due to the insurgency.
NUSAF strived to improve the livelihood of people of Northern Uganda, by empowering communities in 29 districts to enhance their capacity in their own value systems. The project was jointly funded by the World Bank and Government of to a tune of US$ 120m equivalent Ugx 180bn. Inspite of the astronomical amounts of money that was injected, little was achieved. The Auditor General’s Value for Money Audit Report on NUSAF of 2010, reported existence of incomplete sub-projects that the community didn’t benefit from to a tune of Ugx 16.6bn. This inefficiency stifled the aims and objects of the project and poverty levels were less challenged.
As a result, the Government sought to build upon the foundation laid by NUSAF through the continuation of the programme under NUSAF II. It secured a loan amounting to US$ 100 million from the World Bank. NUSAF II has three components: Livelihoods Investment Support (Public Works Programme (PWP) and a Household Income Support Programme), Community Infrastructure Rehabilitation; and Institutional Development.
While appearing before the Parliament committee on National Economy- which is responsible for scrutinizing government proposals to borrow, Hon Rebecca Otengo, Minister In charge of Northern Uganda noted, that the planned targets for the project where 10,042 sub-projects but they achieved 10,519 sub-projects making up 104.7%- meaning that the projects performed beyond expectation.
However, the Minister For Finance, Planning and Economic Development, faults Hon Otengo, in his brief to Parliament on the Proposal by Government to borrow US$ 130m from the World Bank to support NUSAF III. The brief acknowledges the report of the Uganda National Household Survey 2012/2013, which indicates significant differences in poverty levels in different regions with Karamoja at 74.2%, West Nile at 42.3%, and North / Mid North regions at 35.4%. It further emphasizes the sharp decline in poverty levels in central and western regions but much higher rates continue to characterize the north/ north east of the country. This puts Hon Otengo’s statement of the high level achievements of NUSAF II in suspense.
It is the persistent vulnerability in northern region that compelled government to seek for another loan amounting to US$ 130m from the World Bank to fund NUSAF III which was approved by parliament on 3rd September 2015, to enable it to continue providing income support in building resilience of poor and vulnerable households in Northern Uganda for 5 years.
Unless government and its development partners consider supporting interventions that aim at completing the production chain (producing, processing, transporting, marketing) various projects will continue to yield less fruit. There are many subsistence farmers across the country who are engaged in agriculture but the low prices for their produce has demoralized them.
The Executive also needs to restructure OPM by limiting it on coordinating government programs instead of implementing. For instance under NUSAF II, it was implementing programs in education, health, water, agriculture and transport sectors yet there are fully fledged ministries responsible for these programs. Allocation of these programs to their respective ministries will ease implementation, supervision and monitoring.
Finally, government needs to continue providing affirmative action to this region because it underwent a civil war for over 15 years. However this also calls for alot of accountability and rebuilding it would need a lot but accountability should be key .