By Komakech Nicholas
The Ministry of Finance has proposed to spend Shs56Bn to sensitise Ugandans, ahead of the implementation of the controversial Shs490Bn Parish Model.
While appearing before Parliament’s Budget Committee Joseph Enyimu, Acting Commissioner for Economic Development Policy and Research where he said the money had been spread out in a number of entities to spearhead the program.
In the 25th March 2021 letter by Deputy Secretary to Treasury, Patrick Ocailap, Government announced the establishment of another poverty alleviation program dubbed Parish Model, where Ugandans would access funds to a tune of Shs490Bn and pay back into the revolving fund.
The program like many others before it is intended to lift Ugandans out of subsistence economy to the money economy, but this time around, new Parish Chiefs will be hired to manage the Fund.
The changes saw Government implement budget cuts from Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Agriculture sector witnessed the major cuts like; National Agricultural and Advisory Services (NAADs) lost Shs56Bn meant for purchase of agriculture Supplies, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) budget reductions of Shs58Bn.
Funds from Ministry of Gender like Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP) Shs32Bn, Office of Prime Minister from PRDP-Shs98Bn, Office of Prime Minister Luwero Development Program Shs36Bn, Ministry of Local Government Shs200Bn were also diverted to the Parish model.
Instead, Ministry of Finance has redirected these funds to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) to a tune of Shs19.64Bn for updating and rolling out community information systems, Shs6.85Bn to Ministry of ICT for operationalization of parish dashboard, Shs8.21Bn to the Ministry of Local Government for data collection cost, while the rest of funds Shs454Bn were allocated to local governments to the revolving fund.
David Bahati, State Minister for Planning said the program is targeting 68% of households still trapped in subsistence economy and 20 million trapped in poverty, arguing this is a figure Parliament shouldn’t be comfortable with and approve the funds.
West Budama North MP Richard Othieno who also sits on the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee said that the Parish Model will be implemented by President’s Office and another wing of Operation Wealth Creation
He said that when the Ministry of Local Government was questioned about their preparedness to implement the Parish Model, Ministry of Local Government denied knowledge about the Model and asked time to study the said model.
This was contrary to assertions by Ministry of Finance that the Model would be implemented by Ministry of Local Government.
Budget Chairperson, Amos Lugoloobi also shot down the Parish Model saying Government has had several poverty alleviation programs but the implementation of revolving fund has always failed.
Bunya south mp Robert Ntende was the only MP to defend the Shs56Bn on mindset change stating that if Ugandans are gifted with this money without any training on mindset change, the Model is doomed to fail.
Buliisa County’s Stephen Mukitale cautioned the Ministry of Finance against rushing implementation of Parish Model and recommended the suspension of the program for six months after pointing out that the Model doesn’t cater for impact of COVID on the nation.
Butambala County mp Muwanga Kivumbi wondered why Government was sidelining democratically elected leaders like Chairpersons LCI in preference of hiring Parish Chiefs who don’t even have offices, describing the Parish model as another Kangaroo program.
Dokolo Woman district mp Cecilia Ogwal bashed Government for tampering with the UWEP program, saying the move is likely to push women back into poverty and said it is Government that needs to change its mindset, having led Ugandans for 35years and are still preaching against poverty.
Rwampara County mp Charles Ngabirano also protested the Shs56Bn on mindset change, saying the Parish Model is ill prepared and wondered how National Planning Authority (NPA) could own up something so shabby.
However, National Planning Authority owned the Parish Model describing the Program as good and recommendation followed assessment of the two National Development Plans that established that Government is too far that an average Ugandan isn’t feeling it.
The Planning Authority warned MPs against politicizing development. But MPs questioned NPA why the Parish Model wasn’t included in the February 2021 National Budget Framework paper instead of smuggling the model into the budget.
Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija conceded that the Parish Model had been rushed and proposed a seminar to discuss with MPs on how to get Ugandans from poverty.