What you need to know:
- Ms Joyce Babirye, the principal communications officer at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), said Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja ordered both allegations to be investigated concurrently
The government has ordered inquiries into questionable procurement of goats at Shs25b for distribution to vulnerable households in Karamoja just as anger over diversion of iron sheets meant for the region threatens careers of political supervisors.
Ms Joyce Babirye, the principal communications officer at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), said Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja ordered both allegations to be investigated concurrently.
“We had planning meetings with the people or Karamoja and Prime Minister herself ordered that both the iron sheets and goats saga be investigated together and that is what is happening right now. She asked that both reports be handled for onward action when completed,” Ms Babirye said.
It remained unclear if the inquiries ordered by the premier will be conducted by police. A separate one ordered by Speaker of Parliament Anita Among is expected to start today.
The Presidential and Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by Adjumani District Woman Member of Parliament Jesca Ababiku will handle the parliamentary inquest.
This followed massed complaints by lawmakers from the region, local government leaders and beneficiaries that the costs of the goats were inflated, between Shs500,000 and Shs800,000 per animal, a number arrived dead and died while all were not vaccinated or held at holding facilities as required.
Some recipients sold the animals and bought food due to biting hunger, officials said, adding to concerns that beneficiaries received one instead of sixteen goats. MP Ababiku confirmed that the inquiries by her committee kick off today, but declined to divulge information about the scope and duration.
“Why are you so impatient, and what is your interest?” she asked in response to our inquiries.
“… you will get all the information you need when we start the probe, including the programme,” she said.
The Karamoja ministry, which is domiciled under OPM, has been in the midst of storm over diversion of relief items procured for the region allegedly being shared by government officials including ministers.
Motion to censure minister
This last week prompted members of Karamoja Parliamentary Group to formally write to the Clerk to Parliament, notifying him of their intent to file a notice of motion for the censure of Karamoja Affairs Minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu.
She has publicly commented neither about the iron sheet nor the goat procurement scandals since the allegations surfaced a fortnight or so ago.
Karimojong leaders claim government officials are profiteering from the plight of their people.
Mr John Paul Kodet, the chairperson of Napak, said his district was supposed to receive 15,000 goats, but only received 13,000 were supplied and 10,000 of them have died.
Each beneficiary was to get 16 goats, but Karamoja leaders allege that each beneficiary received fewer animals.
“The [goats supplied] were all substandard; some were procured at cost of Shs700,000, while the East African goats were procured at Shs400,000. These goats could be bought each at a maximum of Shs100,000. The contractors inflated the costs,” said Mr Kodet.
Karamoja has about 254 parishes and according to the plan, each parish was supposed to identify 15 vulnerable people who in turn would receive 16 goats each, totalling to 60,960 goats.
Each of the 26 legislators from the region were asked to identify 75 vulnerable people from their constituencies, but none of the 1,950 prospective recipients got goats.
Ms Christine Akot, the vice chairperson of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party for Moroto District, said the Shs39 billion disbursed in supplementary budget for relief to Karamoja ended up wasted.
Some people, she said, without naming names, were the plight of the Karimojong to enrich themselves.
“Shs22 billion was set aside for buying galla goats which have not arrived to date and even those that arrived were sick. Some of them were emaciated and some even died and right now if you went to Karamoja and did an audit, you would get nothing. They are not there but all the money has been spent,” she said.
Karenga District chairperson Felix Mark Lochaale said they only received 1,300 “malnourished” goats.
“Almost all of them died … they brought the goats without veterinary services [yet] the goats were already sick,” he said.
Mr Margaret Aleper Achilla, the Kotido District Woman MP, said they were called for a stakeholders’ meeting after Karamoja ministry secured supplementary budget, but the timing for purchase was wrong due to onset of dry season and raging insecurity at the time.
“However to our surprise, these goats were taken to our districts by the contractors we don’t know … the goats were so small, actually they were kids,” she said: “When I recently did my mobilisation tour with my women, I was told that each beneficiary was given only one goat and they were told the 15 would be delivered later, which up to now they have not received.”
Ms Achilla told this publication that they were informed that each beneficiary was to get 20 iron sheets, but were surprised to learn that the roofing materials had been diverted.