OWC denies Covid relief food procurement irregularities

Sylvia Owori addressing the media

Sylvia Owori addressing the media

Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) coordinated by President Yoweri Museveni's brother Gen Salim Saleh has denied any wrongdoing in the supply of relief food to vulnerable persons last year. 

When Museveni ordered the total lockdown of the country in April last year to control the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), he directed the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to extend food support to vulnerable people whose income-generating activities had been affected.

OPM then contracted 118 companies to supply mainly maize flour and beans. However, according to the Auditor General’s report on Covid-19, many of these companies that were given money to supply short-changed government by inflating prices, supplying fewer commodities than those paid for while others supplied was also not fit for human consumption. 

Government ordered 9,030,000 kilograms of maize flour and 635,000 kilograms of beans but over Shs 4 billion was allegedly lost in inflated prices after the officials quoted Shs 3900 per kilogram of maize flour as opposed to the market price of Shs 2500-3000 and Shs 4500 per kilogram of beans as opposed to Shs 3000-4000 market price. Another Shs 200 billion remains unaccounted for with accountability submitted to the ministry of Finance for only Shs 700 billion.    

Among those organizations who are faulted in the report include OWC which received Shs 18.1 billion to supply 4,000 metric tonnes of maize flour and 1.8 metric tonnes of beans. There is also a query on how OWC was in the first place given a tender to supply yet it’s not known to be one of those organizations dealing in food supplies.

Speaking to the media today Thursday, in Kampala, Sylvia Owori, the recently appointed director for operation at OWC and oversaw the supply said their only role in the transaction was to link the OPM to their network of farmers across the country who were able to meet the required demand. She said that as OWC they were able to their network of 2 million scale farmers to meet 40 per cent of the total demand. 

Owori added that they were also bothered that some of the suppliers were supplying substandard food yet other small farmers in the countryside had better quality food.

"The beans you saw for yourselves, the pictures, they were basically rotten beans and then we realised, we started to find out, the president during the Covid speeches he also said, he reached out - that is what the farmer listened, that is what the farmer was saying, Mr Kasanjo. When they all heard, so we started getting a lot of farmers calling, saying no, the president has said that it is us, small suppliers to supply. So when they kept calling us; 'we have beans, we have beans' and there was hardly beans in the country, we approached OPM and said but we have suppliers can you give us even half a million," Owori said. 

Owori attributed the alleged negative media coverage of OWC to the big suppliers particularly Aponye & Mandela Millers who were left out by introducing small-scale farmers to OPM.

“The food supplied by OWC to OPM opened the way into the monopolized grain marketplace. The marketplaces up until that point, were reserved for only the big players…that don’t always have smallholder farmers' interests at the forefront…Our intervention as OWC presented an opportunity to bring the farmer into the value chain from farm to fork,” Owori said.

Eria Ssemaganyi, the vice chairperson of Uganda Millers Association said they were grateful that OWC intervened on their behalf to also be able to supply food to the government.

Geoffrey Mashaze, the chairman of Rukungiri Coffee Traders Association said it was him who reached out to OWC to help link them to OPM to also supply food to the government.


© 2016 Observer Media Ltd