Covid cash: 150,000 rejected as govt releases Shs14 billion

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja launches the first batch of Covid-19 cash relief at the Office of the Prime Minister on July 8. The money was meant to help the vulnerable people who were affected by the Covid induced lockdown. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • A total of 377,201 (75.2 per cent) beneficiaries out of the targeted 501,107 from various cities and municipalities have been uploaded on the system.

Ronald Mukasa sits on his boda boda motorcycle with hands on his chin watching vehicles passing through Bukoto-Kisaasi road. 

His other colleagues are engaged in conversation but he is disinterested, seems to be in deep thought as the low tone greeting from our reporter had to be repeated before he could respond with a heavy sigh.

He is one of the 501,107 vulnerable people who registered for Covid-19 cash relief of Shs100, 000.  

However, by yesterday, 143,642 (38 per cent) people had received a total of  Shs14.7 billion.

Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Ms Betty Amongi, said a total of 377,201 (75.2 per cent) beneficiaries out of the targeted 501,107 people from various cities and municipalities had been uploaded on the system.

However, additional data for a total of 150,915 beneficiaries was rejected due to what the minister called “a mismatch” in the details that had been uploaded.

Ms Amongi said the vulnerable people were rejected because they either had their telephone numbers registered under different names from their National IDs names or where non-mobile money registered numbers. Other beneficiaries had unregistered numbers.

 “The failed numbers will be sent back to the cities/municipalities either for correction or for payment using the Postbank mobile facility to the extent these beneficiaries possess a valid NIN,” Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja said.

Vulnerable people cry for help

Mr Mukasa and other boda boda riders are considered among people who live from ‘hand to mouth’, earning and spending for the day. 

The government describes them as the vulnerable persons in urban areas, especially those in Kampala Metropolitan areas, 11 cities and 30 municipalities.

“No one at this stage has received the money. We registered and handed in our names to the chairman who said we should wait. I have been waiting for that money because I no longer make money. I used to make money by ferrying passengers. Now, very few people send me to buy or carry their things,” Mr Mukasa said. 

“I cannot stay home because the children will ‘eat me’ up. How do I stay home and yet there is nothing for me to provide for them?” Mr Mukasa asked.

Overall, 20.3 per cent of Ugandans live below the poverty line with the situation worsening during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Before Covid-19, 19.7 per cent of Ugandans were poor but the figure has now increased to 20.9 per cent, according to the 2019/2020 Uganda National Household Survey.

On July 8, the prime minister launched the disbursement of funds through mobile money to vulnerable groups to mitigate the effects of the lockdown as a measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus. But 26 days after the President announced the 42-day lockdown, some people who say their families lack food are still waiting for government relief cash.

According to information from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, only 31 out of 42 municipalities and cities submitted 100 per cent data of the intended beneficiaries for entry into the National Data Centre for cash transfer. 

They include Kampala Central Kira, Bugiri, Mukono, Njeru, Ntungamo, Sheema, Lira, Mbarara, Fort Portal,  Iganga, Tororo, Kamuli, Mubende, Arua, Lugazi, Neebi, Soroti, Entebbe, Gulu, Kumi, Ibanda, Kitgum, Masaka, Kabale, Hoima, Apac, Busia, Jinja and Masindi.

Those yet to submit all the details are Kisoro, Kasese, Rukungiri, Mbale, Kapchorwa, Kotido, Makindye-Ssabagabo, Moroto, Rubaga, Koboko, Nakawa, Nansana, Makindye, Kawempe and Mityana municipalities and divisions, respectively.

Loaded in system

So far, 339,044 targeted beneficiaries have their data entered into the system. 

Updates in the UNHS data sets/waves from 2005/06 to 2018/19 indicate that the largest share of household expenditure has been on food (41.5 per cent), followed by expenditure on housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel (19.4 per cent) and education (6.7 per cent ).

Overall, 50 per cent of the food consumed in households came from own production between 2013 and 2016 though this declined to 43 per cent in 2018/19. 8.4 per cent of the households moved out of poverty whereas 10.2 percent slipped into poverty. 

A large percentage (72.9 per cent) of the households was never poor compared with the chronically poor (8.5 per cent).   

The Mityana District Woman MP and Shadow Minister for Information, Ms Joyce Bagala, recently protested a move suggested by the President that the Office of the Prime Minister together with the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development handle the planning and disbursement of cash to the vulnerable persons in urban areas, saying the exercise required extensive debate in regard to the amount by Parliament, which was in recess.

“This money is not enough; it should be doubled. We also need to ensure transparency of expenditure of such funds. We would like to ask the Speaker to recall the House to allow us debate interventions by the government because we have suggestions to make,” Ms Bagala said. 

Kyotera District Woman MP Fortunate Rose Nantongo proposed that those in rural areas should equally benefit but this seemed to have been overlooked as plans to have only the urban category dominates the list of beneficiaries.

“The criteria used to select the beneficiaries is questionable. This lockdown has affected all Ugandans and all need to benefit from any intervention. As Parliament, we need to debate such issues and guide the government,” Ms Nantongo said.

Poverty levels

Uganda remains among the poorest nations in the world despite reducing its poverty rate. 

In 1993, 56.4 per cent of the population was below the national poverty line.  This decreased to 19.7 per cent by 2013. Although poverty rates overall fell between 1993 and 2016, they rose slightly between 2013 and 2016. Uganda’s poverty estimate data is based on $0.88–$1.04 per person per day as the national poverty line. This measure is much lower than the World Bank’s international figure of $1.90.

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