Govt, bank clash over Covid relief cash mess

Monday July 26 2021
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L-R: Gender, Labour and Social Development minister Betty Amongi; Post Bank managing director Julius Kaketo and Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja

By Damali Mukhaye

The Gender ministry, Post Bank and Airtel telecom company are on the spot following the double payment of up to 6,000 beneficiaries of Shs100,000 Covid-19 relief cash.
The red flag was raised last week by ICT and National Guidance minster Chris Baryomunsi, an error that saw government lose Shs600m.
Following the alert, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Mr Aggrey Kibenge, apportioned the blame on Post Bank that was officially contracted by government to wire the relief cash.

“If there was any financial loss, it is not our problem. We deposited the required money to Post Bank so I cannot account for it. The bank, however, assured us that there is no problem,” Mr Kibenge said at the weekend.
“But if there is any loss, the bank will take liability. As government, we shall not give them more money. If I deposit my money to the bank and it is robbed, do I deposit more money?” Mr Kibenge asked.

Post Bank admitted the double payment, but was quick to say they realised the error early enough and even managed to reverse the same for a number of beneficiaries.
Post Bank Grants manager George William Kiyinji yesterday said they were meeting today after reconciling the books to assess the extent of the loss.
“We are using two systems to pay people. We are using our system and for Airtel. The error came from the system operated by Airtel. I cannot give you conclusive information because we are still reconciling to see what happened and the gravity of the issue,” Mr Kiyinji said last evening by telephone.

He added: “Airtel said they reversed the payments as soon as they were notified about the errors and I am sure there is no loss. 6,000 is a big number and we could have seen a big loss. I am sure the loss is not big.”
Mr Kiyinji further said when they reconcile their records with Airtel, they will file a report to the Office of the Prime Minister with key findings. 
Efforts to reach Ms Sumin Namaganda, the public relations manager of Airtel, were futile as she never answered our repeated phone calls nor did she return the same by press time last evening.

But Mr Baryomunsi last evening revealed that officials at Airtel had informed him on Thursday of how they had recovered money from 4,000 beneficiaries who had been paid twice and that they were in the process of recovering from the 2,000 remaining beneficiaries.
“I was notified that the officer who disbursed the money realised the error immediately and blocked the accounts of all the 6,000 beneficiaries who received the money. With this, no one would withdraw the money,”Dr Baryomunsi said.
He added: “I am sure they have been able to recover all the money.”

However, this narrative is not wholly true because some of the said beneficiaries had already withdrawn the second payment of Shs100,000.
The Prime Minister, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, on Wednesday informed MPs that a total 413,504 people out of the total of 501,107 had received their Covid-19 relief cash.
She further explained that details of 87,504 vulnerable people had been rejected by the government payment system.

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Covid cash
Government on June 20 announced that it would give cash relief to 501,107 people whose businesses had been affected by the 42-day lockdown announced by President Museveni to curb on the rising number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.
These include taxi drivers, conductors, boda boda riders, slum dwellers, street, and hair dressers,  among others.

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