At least 20 emyooga beneficiary ghost groups have been unearthed in Fort Portal, the resident city commissioner (RCC), Rodgers Mbabazi has said.
Emyooga is a presidential initiative on job and wealth creation that targets 18 clusters including restaurant owners, boda-boda riders, women entrepreneurs, carpenters, salon operators, journalists, people with disabilities, fishermen, mechanics, performing artists, and taxi operators. Each constituency was given Shs 560 million.
The estimated nationwide budget for the programme is about Shs 260 billion. Mbabazi says that upon a verification exercise, however, he made a discovery that some of the listed prospective beneficiaries in Fort Portal city in western Uganda were non-existent.
Earlier in April, Mbabazi stopped the issuance of certificates to all 36 Emyooga groups in Fort Portal after the commercial officer, Michael Karwani failed to avail lists of the intended beneficiaries.
While meeting Saccos leaders at Kyebambe Girls’ secondary school main hall, Mbabazi argued that he could not allow the issuance of the certificates to the emyooga applicants yet some of the purported beneficiaries from the same groups did not even know each other.
He then tasked Karwani to produce the lists of the beneficiaries before embarking on any other process. About three weeks later, Karwani produced the lists but the RCC insisted that the members of each group appear physically with their national IDs to confirm their existence.
Mbabazi says that over 16 Sacco emyooga groups have already been verified. He, however, says nobody showed up to confirm members for more than 20 other groups.
He says that this was shocking given the fact that the commercial officer appeared to call the group leaders several times to mobilize their members. Mbabazi says majority of ghost groups were found in the Saccos of salon operators, produce dealers and performing artists.
He also says that he was shocked to find some groups had names of civil servants which they had to delete because they are not among the intended beneficiaries. Mbabazi argued that with the members failing to turn for physical verification, it means the groups were forged.
"So we reached at a point where you could call a group maybe; boda boda group C you come. No one turns up, you say; anyone who knows about this group? No one. Simply because you find that group was submitted by a one individual, went somewhere, got a certain database, put the NIN numbers and whatever, and when he heard that we need members, he feared even to come. So you find no one has turned up. You read a group no one has turned up," said Mbabazi.
Mbabazi says there is going to be a strict verification exercise of the remaining 16 Saccos and all the ghost groups will be thrown out. Karwani however defended himself, saying the group members could have failed to surface because as the commercial office, they did not have funds to make radio announcements to call the beneficiaries for the verification exercise.
Some financial statements that our reporter has seen, show that about Shs 30 million was deposited on each of the Sacco’s account in Fort Portal city in November last year, but no Sacco have ever accessed the funds.
Mbabazi says that after the verification exercise, they want the Saccos to come up with business plans. He also adds that Saccos have to hold general meetings where the commercial officer and his team can train them on how the initiative works before they can access the money.