Thursday August 7 2014

Social action fund will transform communities in northern Uganda

By Rose Namayanja

Thousands of communities have benefited from the second northern Uganda Social Action Fund (Nusaf II), a government of Uganda project operating in 55 districts in the greater north and Karamoja region aimed at overcoming poverty and making people self-reliant.
Financed by a specific investment loan of $100 million from the World Bank and a grant of £24 million from the Department of International Development, the project, which became effective in 2009, seeks to address the poverty gap between northern Uganda and the rest of the country.
A follow up of Nusaf I, implemented 2003-2009, Nusaf II development objective is to improve access of beneficiary households to income earning opportunities and better socio-economic services. It’s one of the interventions of the Office of the Prime Minister under the Peace Recovery and Development Programme.
Originally targeting 10,042 sub projects, Nusaf II has greatly succeeded in this goal and to date, 96.62 per cent of the sub-project funds have been utilised. And 2,533 of the sub-projects are under community infrastructure rehabilitation, 6,619 are of household income support, while 370 are public works programmes.
Public works programmes have helped improve livelihoods among beneficiary communities through income generation by provision of labour and the community-based assets created.
Technical studies by the project indicate that 82.3 per cent of the communities are satisfied with Nusaf II investment. Under public works, 57 per cent of the beneficiaries reported increase in household income and 63 per cent of the income was spent on food while 18 per cent was saved.
A leading successful feature of Nusaf 2 is its Community Demand Driven (CDD) approach, which has generated overwhelming demand and calls for an extension to Nusaf 3.
Under the CDD model, Nusaf II beneficiaries manage the funds themselves, which are directly disbursed on the sub-project community account. They do the procurement themselves and account directly for the funds received.
To prevent corruption and abuse of funds, Nusaf II integrated the office of the Inspector General of Government as a component.
The impressive achievement of accountability in the Nusaf II unlike Nusaf I is largely attributed to the innovation of social accountable committees at sub-project level. Due to the committee’s outstanding performance, the IGG has piloted Nusaf II framework as a model to build the capacities of communities to monitor government-funded projects.
So far, Nusaf II has not reported loss. Sub-project funds by the communities and corruption incidences are minimised. Any incidences of bad practices, shoddy work by contractors or reports of corruption are quickly detected and fixed.
Due to the overwhelming success of Nusaf II, the government and the World Bank have approved a one- year extension to allow for the successful completion of the delayed roll-out in Karamoja and enable smooth closure.
As of May 2014, up to 79.5 per cent of the funds disbursed for the Greater North were accounted for by the sub-project committees.
Implementation has not gone without challenges and among them is to ensure smooth closure so that outstanding investments can be completed, all funds accounted for, and lessons learnt, archives and reports on project achievements made plus completing an impact assessment study.
Due to the start-up assistance received, Nusaf II has empowered many communities in northern Uganda to overcome poverty, support families, educate children, increase incomes and standards of living, open new lines of income generating activities and savings.

Ms Namayanja is the Minister for Information and National Guidance.