Elderly persons in Namutumba District are missing out on Social Assistance Grant Empowerment [SAGE] money for lacking national identity cards, the authorities have revealed.
SAGE is part of the social protection programme implemented by government under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
According to the programme guidelines, for one to benefit from SAGE fund, he or she must be 80 years and above to qualify for Shs25,000 per month.
However, the district chairperson, Mr Saleh Kumbuga, on Tuesday said Namutumba has no person of 80 years and above.
However, we were unable to verify this claim by press time.
“The biggest age category of elder persons in the district is of 70 years and below. Why the elderly are not getting their grant is because majority of them are below the required age,’’ Mr Kumbuga said.
He added: “It means that those who are now 60 years will have to wait for more 20 years to become eligible. I think this is not being fair in allocation of government programmes.’’
The district community development officer, Mr Khalif Babalanda, said since the inception of the programme, Namutumba has not benefited like other districts such as Bugiri.
Mr Babalanda, however, partly attributes this to elderly persons who, without foresight, falsified their dates of birth during the national identification registration exercise.
“It is not the district authorities to blame but some people gave wrong information concerning their date of birth which is making them not qualify for the grant. Government should lower the age so that those who are 65 years old can also benefit from the grant,” he said.
Mr Babalanda added that some people still do not know their date of birth because they were not told so by their forefathers.
“While some people ‘look’ 80 and above, their national identity cards say they are 60, 70 and below; all simply because they gave wrong information to the authorities, while some still do not have Identity cards,’’ he added.
Mr Daniel Elupakusadhi, an elderly person from Mazuba Sub-county, said he does not know his exact age because his parents died before revealing to him when he was born. “Some of us can only guess our age, depending on the regime in power [government], but can’t tell our real date of birth,’’ he said.
But district authorities accuse government of stipulating that one must possess a national identity card and be 80 years and above to benefit from the SAGE programme.
Some elderly persons claim they are being denied their right to benefit from government programmes, arguing that government gives money to the youth through the Youth Livelihood Programme [YLP] despite some forging their ages.
The Resident District Commissioner [RDC], Mr Ssempala Kigozi, said it is not only in Namutumba where elderly persons are missing out the grant, saying it is because the programme has just been initiated in the district.
Resolution. In January, government resolved that effective July 1 this year, only Ugandans of 80 years and above will be included on the new list of Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) recipients.
The resolution affected elderly persons living in 77 districts.
However, it did not affect the 65-year-olds and above who were already receiving Shs25,000 monthly in 57 districts.
Mr Joseph Basoga, the SAGE senior programme officer, then said the policy is in line with a resolution of Parliament that government extends SAGE services to all districts.
According to the Uganda Retirements Benefits Regulatory Authority Annual Report 2017, as of March 2018, at least 190, 466(21 per cent) of Ugandans 65 years plus were covered by SAGE.