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Probe finds gross rot in Youth Livelihood program

The Shs 265 billion Youth Livelihood Programme is limping and very troubled, five years after it was set up by President Museveni largely to lift the poor and unemployed youths out of poverty.

A recent government investigation has unearthed gross corruption, ghost groups, illegal fees charged for application forms and poor monitoring of the programme countrywide. The same evil has crept into the newly established Women Livelihood Programme started in 2015.

The new findings back up the 2016 auditor general’s report, which found the Youth Livelihood Programme did not have a proper accounting framework.

The report also found that recovery of funds was so low and some beneficiaries had vanished in at least 35 districts, including Masaka, Rakai, Wakiso, Kalangala and Kalungu.

According to the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, at least Shs 84.55 billion has so far been disbursed in loans to over 144,235 individuals affiliated to 11,503 youth groups countrywide, but only Shs 6.7 billion had been recovered by the end of January 2017.

Youth Livelihood project tent

A recent on-the-ground independent investigation led by Janat Mukwaya, the minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, has found a string of irregularities.

The minister told journalists at the ministry headquarters in Kampala on July 18 that she carried out a national assessment of the programmes by visiting the north, Busoga, central and western regions to confirm allegations that various groups registered under the project were non-existent.

“During the tour, most groups were there but [as it is] with every situation, there are bad apples. Some of the groups belong to the [programme’s] technical staff,” Mukwaya said.

She cited a situation in Mayuge district where a town clerk got about Shs 60 million after presenting project proposals for six ghost women groups. She said local authorities are also imposing illegal taxes and fees on applicants. These, Mukwaya said, are charging between Shs 50,000 at district level and Shs 20,000 at sub-county level.

In Kaliro district, for example, authorities require a group to provide a constitution, and pay a Shs 500,000 fee, which is not in the project guidelines. Anna Adeke Ebaju, the national youth MP, confirmed in a telephone interview yesterday that some unscrupulous officials were charging illegal fees for the constitution and application forms. In the process, she said, these officials are draining the youths’ meagre cash resources and making the whole process so bureaucratic.

Interviewed yesterday, Arafat Abong, the Kotido district youth leader, said such fees are scaring away youths.

“They give you many conditions and they want you to pay something. After a short period of time, they start threatening to arrest you because you have delayed to pay,” Abong said.

Some districts also charge varying fees for application forms. Other officials reportedly ask for a certain percentage of the loan amount from different groups before disbursing the loans. Mukwaya cited groups in Kaliro and Mayuge that have given kick-backs to technical staff.

“I think this is done deliberately because they [district leaders] may be getting some interest on this money from somewhere,” she noted.

Ibrahim Kitatta, the secretary general of Uganda Youth Council, recently told Uganda Radio Network (URN) that they have documented numerous complaints from beneficiaries.

Some youths, he said, were forced to sign for higher amounts than what they eventually got. Kitatta cites one group that signed for Shs 10 million yet it received only Shs 8 million.

Other irregularities

Mukwaya said the membership of groups is too big and needs review. The current group membership of 15 is reportedly big and not easy to monitor.

“We have also noted a big number of group dropouts. Groups that started with about 15 people are now having less,” Mukwaya said.

To finally get a loan, the group requires the signature of the sub-county chief and accountant.

“In Nakasongola district, the sub-county chief refused to sign on the cheque of a certain women’s group because they refused to give him kitu kidogo [bribe]; when they heard I was coming, they also came to report the matter. Luckily enough the chief was in the meeting and in his defence, he told us he lost his national identity card,” Mukwaya said.

Reports from mostly NRM-leaning regions suggest that ruling party leaning groups easily get loans though Mukwaya quickly dismissed that allegation.

On failure to pay

Of recent, police at the urging of the ministry of gender, has arrested youths in the districts of Masaka, Sembabule, Rakai and Kalangala who have failed to pay back the money borrowed within the stipulated one-year period.

Many are on the run while others are now shying away from getting loans for fear of being arrested. Asked whether this will affect the project if the youths continue to shy away, Mukwaya said:

“All the young people who got this money knew that it was refundable. The ones who got it and divided it among themselves instead of making business, I will continue to arrest them.”

Government action

To end the malpractices, government plans to enhance monitoring and evaluation, which they say will provide more information. There is also a proposal to reduce the number of people required to form a group from 15 to about six or five.

“We are also trying to shorten the application forms and ensure that they are translated into local languages,” Mukwaya said.

The ministry of Gender and that of Local Government have agreed to work together to punish errant local government officials. Mukwaya said one doesn’t have to take complaints to her ministry directly but can refer them to the local government ministry.

Adeke said youth MPs are pushing for a review of the whole programme from the numbers and increasing the loan amounts.

“We would like to see less bureaucracy and a smaller system which still holds our young people accountable but doesn’t discourage them from the process of seeking this money,” Adeke said.

Kamogajonathan50gmail.com

Comments

0 #1 wadada rogers 2017-07-21 08:47
That program was never intended for the youth, it was for the the old folks who wanted an avenue through which to eat money.

Now the youth are jobless and dangerous to NRM's political future. This same rot is going to be unearthed with the operation wealth creation, the soldiers will benefit more
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0 #2 Lakwena 2017-07-21 09:16
I prophetically maintain that whatever M7 initiates of torches rots.

In other words, Uganda is rotting as we watch. And there are some Ugandans like Abiriga, iwho are helping to make it rot faster.
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0 #3 ssebunya Fredrick 2017-07-21 10:52
I suggest that sensitization of the youth is essential before disbursement of these loans.

Because you talk of improving monitoring and evaluation systems but what are you going to monitor or evaluate given the circumstance that some get loans for consumption.

The program drivers are the problem please check your selves
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0 #4 Kelly 2017-07-21 11:54
Who is fooling who here? How can someone say he is surprised with any such projects in Uganda?

Who can mention any one “poverty alleviation” project that has scored just 40% success in this country in the last 30 years?

From the inception, structure, processes and monitoring everything is hopeless and can be seen by a lay man. How do you lend money without a remedy for default which is the biggest credit risk in lending?

I am really tired and sick of my country!!! How I wish Psalm 109:8 can apply to these leeches. “….May their children become orphans…may their wives become widows…”
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0 #5 rubangakene 2017-07-21 18:57
This program was a on-starter from the word go.

Instead of throwing so much money at youth, the government should have instituted a National Service on the same tune as they do in Tanzania.

This helps the youth bond as one; uniting gender, class, tribes, religion for better citizenship and entrepreneurship for two years in camps.

Moreover we wouldn't even have needed to train so called 'crime- preventers'; thus killing two birds with one stone!
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0 #6 kabinda 2017-07-24 05:08
Very predictable.

This was a joint ponzi scheme of some senior government officers.

They made money out of that bogus so called youth project. Bigirimana owes the nation an explanation and a refund.
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