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Govt links Shs 57bn COVID relief cash project to Bobi Wine, angry donors pull out

GiveDirectly staff registering people for the cash handouts earlier

GiveDirectly staff registering people for the cash handouts earlier

A $15m (Shs 57bn) COVID-19 relief cash handout kitty rolled out earlier this year for Uganda's poor, has come to an abrupt and disappointing end after the international donors USA and UK pulled out.

The project was funded by both US and UK under USAID and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office formerly DFID. The Observer has learnt from reliable sources that President Yoweri Museveni directly ordered the suspension of the GiveDirectly project after intelligence reports claimed the project was being used as an avenue to bring into the country, huge sums of money to fund opposition activities particularly Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine's attempt at the presidency in the 2021 general elections.

The allegedly 'angry' donors pulled out due to Uganda government's apparent "reluctance" and opposition to the project - with several engagements failing to bear any fruit. Cabinet, this week resolved to extend the project's suspension issued on September 9, 2020, by a further 2 months to continue with the investigations into the American international NGO.

Initially, GiveDirectly which has been operational in the country since 2013 providing direct cash handouts to needy Ugandans, was accused by the National Bureau for NGOs of rolling out a cash handout project which was making Ugandans "lazy". The NGOs Bureau also said the cash handout would promote idleness, domestic violence, dependency syndrome and tension within neighbouring villages as well as casting doubt over the source of GiveDirectly’s cash. Interestingly, the same government through ministries of Local Government, Finance and Kampala and Metropolitan Affairs approved the project earlier in April this year. 

In a statement, the US Embassy says it is pulling out of the project because it's unlikely that the program will meet its original objective following the indefinite suspension. The goal of this program was to follow international precedent for economic stimulus by providing cash directly to individuals and families who need it most, the embassy said.  

"Specifically, the program intended to support Ugandans who lost livelihoods as a result of COVID-19, who were at risk of food insecurity and faced serious reductions in household nutrition. The cash transfers were designed to support local markets by providing 120,000 Ugandans across six cities Shs 100,000 each month for three months. By September, 47,128 Ugandans were enrolled in the program."

Adding: "GiveDirectly addressed the NGO Bureau’s questions, and no irregularities in the cash transfer program or GiveDirectly’s operations were identified. The program has still not been authorized to resume, and no assurances have been provided that authorization by the government is forthcoming. In light of this indefinite suspension, it is now unlikely that the program will meet its original objective, which was to prevent COVID related economic backsliding of the most vulnerable Ugandans. Therefore, we are obligated contractually to terminate the program permanently."

Before its suspension earlier in September, each beneficiary was entitled to between Shs 100,000 and Shs 200,000 per month for three months. At least 190,000 beneficiaries were targeted and at the time of the suspension, 48,000 individuals had been enrolled while 22,000 had already received at least the first batch of their monthly Shs 100,000 cash handout. Lira had 40,000 enrollees, Mbale, 29,000, Gulu 16,000, Moroto, 5,000, Mbarara 38,000, Kabale 10,000.

Further at stake are the 40 employees of GiveDirectly who were in charge of the project whose contracts are to also be terminated and another 60 employees on other projects because the unhappy donors are also threatening to also pull out of the other $12 million projects since reportedly, the Ugandan government is not appreciating their efforts.

The US Embassy said in a statement that since the COVID-19 outbreak, it has provided technical assistance and over $47 million (including $10 million direct cash) to help Uganda meet the urgent needs of its COVID-19 response. It said the goal of the project was to follow international precedent for economic stimulus of providing cash directly to individuals and families that need it most. 

GiveDirectly country director Michael Kayemba insists they complied with all available existing laws in the country and all the necessary documentation asked by the NGO Bureau was provided. Kayemba also dismissed intelligence allegations of being used as an avenue to fund the opposition, saying the intelligence reports if indeed they exist were false intelligence.  

Below is the US Embassy statement in full

Since the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has provided technical assistance and more than $47 million to help Uganda meet urgent needs in its COVID-19 response.

The United States’ COVID-related assistance includes approximately $10 million for a direct cash transfer program launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in August in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Kampala through the international non-profit, GiveDirectly. 

The goal of this program was to follow international precedent for economic stimulus by providing cash directly to individuals and families who need it most. Specifically, the program intended to support Ugandans who lost livelihoods as a result of COVID-19, who were at risk of food insecurity and faced serious reductions in household nutrition. The cash transfers were designed to support local markets by providing 120,000 Ugandans across six cities 100,000 UGX each month for three months. By September, 47,128 Ugandans were enrolled in the program.

USAID and GiveDirectly worked closely with government counterparts to successfully vet the program through the Cabinet and ultimately to launch the program publicly as part of the Lira City celebration in August. Despite the thorough assessment and approval by Cabinet, in September the NGO Bureau announced an additional review of GiveDirectly’s activities in Uganda, resulting in the program’s suspension.

GiveDirectly addressed the NGO Bureau’s questions, and no irregularities in the cash transfer program or GiveDirectly’s operations were identified.

The program has still not been authorized to resume, and no assurances have been provided that authorization by the government is forthcoming. In light of this indefinite suspension, it is now unlikely that the program will meet its original objective, which was to prevent COVID related economic backsliding of the most vulnerable Ugandans. Therefore, we are obligated contractually to terminate the program permanently.

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, which has been proven both internationally and within Uganda as a powerful development tool to transfer stabilizing economic relief to recipient communities.  

We deeply regret that the 120,000 Ugandans identified to participate in this program, along with their surrounding communities, will now not have the opportunity to benefit from it.

The United States is a strong and longstanding partner of Uganda and the country’s single largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance. 

While deeply disappointed by the reluctance of some elements within the government to support this highly effective cash transfer program, the United States remains committed to supporting the Ugandan people through this challenging time.

Comments

+1 #11 P. Goldberg 2020-11-01 23:00
It is interesting to read free exchange of ideas without getting personal as an observer but the Wainanchi comments tells it all where stupidity lies and those benefiting from the rotten regime.
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0 #12 kirya 2020-11-02 09:00
America is watching the professional thieves at work.

The government of thieves for the thieves were getting
dreams about imaginary distributions among the refuges!
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