Govt struggles to recover youth funds

A man counts Uganda Shillings. The Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development says it is struggling to recover Shs.129b borrowed by the youths under the Youth Livelihood Programme. PHOTO | FILE

The Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development says it is struggling to recover Shs129b borrowed by the youth under the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP).

In an interview on Monday, Mr Julius Amulle Ocaya, the YLP programme supervisor, said out of the Shs169b that they lent out cumulatively to different youth enterprises since 2013, they had only recovered Shs40b by 2018/2019 Financial Year.

He said this was because the Ministry of Finance had cut the programme operational budget from Shs66.6b to Shs3.3b.

He added that this was worsened by the outbreak of Covid-19.

“The 2018/2019 budget cuts made it difficult for us to send money to districts for operations and yet they needed the money to follow up and ensure that the youth are doing the right thing,” Mr Ocaya said.

Asked whether the youth did not take advantage of the pandemic to default on payments, Mr Ocaya said before the pandemic, they were recovering Shs4b every quarter but this reduced to Shs300m per quarter when Covid-19 hit the country.

He said the youth claimed that their projects, especially livestock and agricultural projects, were affected by disasters such as diseases, floods and droughts  but could not adduce evidence.

While opening a workshop for district community development officers to familiarise themselves with the new guidelines for the operationalisation of institutional support to National Women Council Structures across the country yesterday, Ms Peace Mutuzo, the State Minister for Culture and Women Affairs, said the government has secured money to empower the National Women’s Council Structures to help with the implementation of the Parish Development Model and recovery of the missing YLP funds and the Uganda Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) funds.

Asked how this was going to work, Ms Mutuzo said: “We are operationalising all structures of the national women’s council to avoid abuse of funds entrusted to you. There are many programmes that are given to women but many people do not know them. Women councils are going to start attending all district council meetings,” she said.

She added that the National Women’s Council is a semi-autonomous institution under her ministry mandated to organise women into a unified body to engage in activities that benefit them. 

Asked how UWEP is faring, Ms Winnie Matsiko, the national programme coordinator of the YLP and UWEP, said last year, the government ended the two programmes and created the Parish Development Model to have one solid development programme.

She confirmed that they have challenges recovering the money.

 Mr James Ebitu, the director of Social Protection in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, said they have so far recovered Shs34.6 billion from both programmes. 

He said last year, the government decided that the money be put back into both programmes out of which 10 percent should be used as operational funds to collect the loans which are yet to be paid back. He said 245,000 youth benefited from the loans while 130,000 women entrepreneurs benefited from the fund.

What district community development officers say

Simon Okumu, Busia, “The programme is struggling because it was halted at the onset of Covid-19. Some groups were disbanded, making it difficult for us to recover the money.”

Deo Mukasa,  Kyotera, “Since 2017, we haven’t received any disbursements although we made some recoveries in 2018. We were previously part of Rakai District and some of the groups went back to Rakai.”

Gonzaga Ssebulime, Kasanda, “The programme stopped in 2019 when we got the last disbursement. The groups that were given money went and started implementing their own projects after dividing the money.”

Beatrice Wakooli, Bududa, “We have only recovered 35 percent of the money because we had a challenge of operational funds and some of them thought it was a handshake from the government.”

Perry Jawoko, Omoro, “We are doing badly in terms of recovering the money because we did not have operational funds to follow up the projects and supervise the youth. Many groups disintegrated.”

Docus Auma, Alebtong, “We recovered only 35 percent of the money because during campaigns, the youth were misled that the money was theirs. Some leaders did not understand the programme.”

Geofrey Akena, Nwoya, “Last week, we collected Shs16m. We are seeing miracles in Nwoya where we have successful groups which have grown and they are walking into our office to pay back the money.”

Richard Obia, Zombo, “We were not able to monitor UWEP and the YLP projects because as a district we have no equipment to move around the district unless there is going to be a supplementary budget.”

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