30,000 government goats go missing

Tuesday April 26 2011

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Kampala

At least 30,230 goats belonging to government are unaccounted for, according to an investigation by the Auditor General’s Office, which expressed concerns about the possibility of a major scam involving officials in the Ministry of Agriculture.

The missing goats were meant for the implementation of a Shs6.7 billion pilot breeding project for strategic export under President Museveni’s poverty reduction programme in Sembabule District. The Support for Export Breeding and Production Project was to benefit more than 100 farmers.

Under the goats deal, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and Sembeguya Estates Ltd, a private firm, on March 22 . The company was to contribute Shs336 million. The estate was required to supply 150 male and 200 female exotic breed goats using its own funds and 54,000 improved Mubende goats using government funding.

Records show that the Project received Shs800 million from government in the financial year 2004/2005 for infrastructure development and purchase of the first lot of goats. However, only 3,023 Mubende goats were procured and were not distributed to farmers at the time due to lack of sufficient funds.

No accountability
Five years later, in the Financial Year 2009/2010, the Ministry released another Shs907.2 million to the company. Using these funds, 5,040 Mubende goats were procured and these, together with the previously procured 3,023 goats were distributed to farmers.

According to the background to the project, the AG said, “an adult goat delivers twice within 13 months with high twining ratio. The first batch of 3,023 goats procured in 2004/5 using the first disbursement of funds stayed at the farm and should have delivered at least 30,230 offsprings in five years when they were at the farm. However, there was no accountability for any of these offsprings produced in the five-year period.”

At a cost of about Shs1million per goat, it’s estimated that taxpayers could have lost more than 302.3 million for the missing goats. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Vice Chairperson Oduman Okello (Bukedea) said the committee will open fresh investigations into the circumstances under which the goats disappeared from the farm and who were the officials responsible for the loss.

“This is yet another case of abuse,” Mr Okello said. “We would like to know who took government goats and those responsible should prepare to pay for the loss. This is taxpayers’ money we are talking about and the amounts involved are huge.” While Ministry officials remain tight lipped on the matter, claiming they had not yet read the report, the Auditor General has told PAC that he had advised the Accounting Officer Mr Vincent Rubarema to pursue the accountability for the goats produced in the five years.

The MoU specified that the project would last for five years from the date of signing, implying that the project expired on March 21, 2010. However, officials have continued to operate illegally, a move the AG said might put additional government funds in danger.

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