US govt cancels Shs37b Covid-19 fund

A woman washes clothes at a slum in Kawempe. Through the programme, each of the assessed 120,000 Ugandans was supposed to receive Shs100,000 over three months to help them outwit the economic hardships caused by Covid-19 that had put a halt on sources of their livelihood.  PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Through the programme, each of the assessed 120,000 Ugandans was supposed to receive Shs100,000 over three months to help them outwit the economic hardships caused by Covid-19 that had put a halt on sources of their livelihood. 

The US government has cancelled a $10m (Shs37b) fund that was meant to assist at least 120,000 Ugandans who were rendered redundant and lost their livelihoods due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
The US embassy in Kampala on Friday announced in a statement that it had terminated the programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) because the government of Uganda has declined to approve it. 
The money was supposed to be channeled through International non-profit organisation called Give Directly. 
Through the programme, each of the assessed 120,000 Ugandans was supposed to receive Shs100,000 over three months to help them outwit the economic hardships caused by Covid-19 that had put a halt on sources of their livelihood. 
In a statement dated October 30, the US Embassy said after Cabinet approved the project, it was put through tests by the Non-Government Organisations (NGO) Bureau and there were no irregularities found in the cash 
“The programme has still not been authorised to resume, and no assurances have been provided that authorisation by the government is forthcoming,” the statement reads in parts.
It adds: In light of this indefinite suspension, it is now unlikely that the programme will meet its original objective, which was to prevent Covid-19 related economic backsliding of the most vulnerable Ugandans.” 
The US Mission contends that assessment of the beneficiaries in six unnamed cities across the country was done through the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry for Kampala. 
Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi yesterday confirmed that his ministry had participated in the assessment of the would-be beneficiaries but declined to comment on why government decided not to authorise the transfer of cash. 
“It was not only my ministry that was involved. You need to ask the Prime Minister because he chairs the National Taskforce that handles all matters related to Covid-19,” Mr Magyezi said.
Mr Julius Musinguzi, the spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister, referred Sunday Monitor to Information Minister Judith Nabakooba who said she was not in position to speak about the Cabinet decision on the programme before reading the report about what was exactly decided. 

Funding
The US government, which has already given out $47m (Shs176b) to help the government of Uganda in the fight against Covid-19, revealed that for the support to individuals and families, at least 47,128 Ugandans were enrolled in the programme by September. 
Government distributed food relief to about 1.5 million people in the Kampala metropolitan area but it has never announced any stimulus package that would see individual Ugandans get cash to solve some of their economic hardships. 
Despite Parliament passing resolutions arguing government to among others reduce or not charge utility bills for the three months of lockdown; prevail on commercial banks to suspend interest on loans; and, distribute food to all parts of the country, there has only been amendment of the Tax Acts to defer payment of taxes on some businesses until December.
“We are mindful that ordinary Ugandans continue to suffer from the socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and that they could greatly benefit from this emergency cash assistance,” the US embassy noted.

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