Over the years, the Government of Uganda has made notable strides in eradicating poverty since it assumed power in 1986. Household poverty rates have significantly declined from 19.7% in 2013 to 8.4% by 2020.
However, even with this improvement, Uganda is still considered one of the poorest countries in the world with a substantial number of its people, living in abject poverty. It has been noted that 41% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day.
This means that the well-being of Ugandans in terms of health, education, vulnerability and deprivation among others, is still very low, which is a clear indication that a lot needs to be done if the country is to move from low to middle income status.
The Government is popular for its ambitious economic plans aimed at transforming Ugandan homesteads from subsistence to market-oriented production through poverty eradication programmes that encourage value addition production.
As a result, there has been, introduction of several poverty alleviation programmes like the Rural Farmers Scheme in the early 1990s, Entandikwa in the run-up to 1996, Bona Bagaggawale in 2007, the Youth Capital Venture that later became Youth Livelihood Programme to the current Emyooga which was introduced in October 2020.
However, it’s interesting to note that most of these Government programs have posted little to no success mainly due to institutionalized corruption entrenched in Government.
Besides corruption, many of these said programmes have been watered down by inflated administrative costs, bureaucratic tape, and financial illiteracy among intended beneficiaries, nepotism and sometimes inadequate investment by the State but yet more programs continue to come up.
A report by Alliance for Finance Monitoring, a none government organization monitoring money in politics said that in 2019, the Ugandan Government conducted a country-wide survey that showed that 68.9% of Ugandans were outside the money economy.
These Ugandans according to the report were living hand to mouth and yet the Operation Wealth Creation program had been in operation for more than 5 years.
The report notes that, a closer scrutiny of many of the poverty alleviation programmes, reveals a pattern of them being designed and implemented in the year running-up to elections or even in the middle of the electioneering period which automatically turns them into political tools at the expense of fighting poverty.
At the beginning of August 2021, Parliament was granted a week’s recess to allow MPs assess the status of the Emyooga programme that was intended to improve livelihoods and the findings though not surprising are very disappointing.
Government had in the 2020/21 financial year, disbursed Sh260b to be administered to Savings, Credit and Cooperatives (SACCOs) formed by members of the same occupation in 553 constituencies around the country as revolving funds.
The intention, Government explained was to ensure access to financial services for vulnerable categories of Ugandans in the working bracket such as market vendors, food stalls, boda-boda riders, taxi drivers, carpenters, welders, saloon operators, farmers and journalists to boost their entrepreneurial capacity and improve household incomes.
Unfortunately, for a programme that is barely 10 months old, legislators revealed upon holding consultative meetings that, the programme was mishandled in their constituencies and the money disbursed to political groupings as opposed to organized constituency SACCOs.
Having done the monitoring and evaluation, Manjiya County MP, John Baptist Nambeshe, noted that the program was a political strategy to neutralize the opposition and canvass votes for the incumbent Presidential candidate.
It should also be noted that most of these programmes were launched before the election period and have been used as a campaign tool with many considering them “sugar-coated voter bribery” disguised as government programmes.
For example, Bona Baggagawale (Prosperity for all) was tied to NRM’s 2006 campaign promise to transform Uganda into a ‘united, stable, peaceful and modern industrial country’ but three years down the road, the production was low with food and financial insecurity lurking.
With Emyooga launched in the middle of the campaign period, could history be repeating itself? The Government excites the population; they vote it back into power, only for it to have been an empty promise to Ugandans.
The shocker from Masaka City is that the Emyooga funds were given to ghost SACCOs with the intention to embezzle funds.
“The Microfinance Support Centre Ltd Zonal Manager, Mr. Wilfred Katobe told us that they acted on a directive from above to open bank accounts for non-existent SACCOs. The accounts were credited on Elections Day eve,”- Mathias Mpuuga, MP Nyendo-Mukungwe.
In some areas, it’s has been reported that civil servants and SACCO leaders solicited bribes from beneficiaries of the programme. Some groups have even suffered a deduction as a kickback to officials to access funds.
Cases of Emyooga funds being withdrawn from accounts in banks without the knowledge of the signatories have been reported. How is this even possible if the signatories are not involved? In other areas, the technical staff cannot account for missing funds. Thorough investigations should be taken and the culprits chastised.
While we wait for comprehensive regional reports on the accountability, implementation, and compliance with the relevant laws and sanctions against misuse of funds of the Emyooga program we shouldn’t ignore the fact that a lot needs to be addressed before the programme just like the ones before it fails miserably.
I believe when the President is hatching these plans for Uganda’s social and economic development, the intentions are pure but failing because of poor planning and usually a few selfish Government agents.
With the Parish Development Model now in the pipeline, the programme policies need to be reviewed with issues of corruption, theft, bribery, limited funding, and illiteracy curbed early to increase the capacity of the initiative if the government is to make a substantive difference in the lives of Ugandans.
Photo Credit: The New Vision RASTOON.