The Emyooga programme across the country was poorly implemented, Members of Parliament have unanimously agreed.
The legislators during plenary on Thursday, 16 September, 2021, criticised the government for the systemic failure in the implementation of the presidential Initiative rolled out in October 2020 aimed at wealth and job creation.
The Emyooga was intended to support among others, market vendors, welders, taxi drivers, carpenters, boda-boda riders, women, performing artists and restaurant owners who come together in form of savings and credit co-operative societies.
Following reports of irregularities in the implementation of the programme, legislators were tasked to appraise the impact of the Emyooga funds in their constituencies within a week prior to commencement of the much anticipated Shs 490 billion Parish Development Model (PDM).
In sub regional reports presented on the Floor over the last week following their assessment visits to the constituencies, MPs discovered that the implementation design of the Emyooga was marred by several inconsistencies and mishaps which crippled the desired outcome.
The recurring problems in the reports included associations being formed hurriedly to receive quick cash. Most of these SACCOs had no shared vision, objectives or goals establishing them.
Political interference was another major challenge as many beneficiaries misunderstood the Emyooga funds to be a token of appreciation from the government for voting it into power. This is because the funds were disbursed during the election period.
This, therefore, caused misunderstanding with people thinking that they did not have to pay back the monies.
Another issue was COVID-19 pandemic which affected many associations because they were unable to congregate or receive training on how to utilise the funds. This was because of limitations of the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
An area of concern in the reports was that some association members used the funds as a fall back source of survival given that some of these businesses were struggling during the pandemic.
Additionally, another highlight was that no direct budget was provided to the district officers and other technocrats who were understaffed and poorly remunerated for effective monitoring and supervision. This affected day-to-day operation of the SACCOs.
Some SACCOs took long to receive funds for one reason or another. The process for registration was difficult for many while for some, the banks charged with handling the funds took long to disburse the money.
The requirement for collateral additional raised serious issues in many areas. For example, in Rubanda district many women reported that they had failed to access the funds because their husbands vehemently refused to consent to use of property as collateral.
There were inconsistencies in the set loan recovery period with different SACCOs giving varying loan repayment periods and interest rates. This, therefore, affected the time taken to recover some of the money.
Some members and leaders of some SACCOs misappropriated and embezzled funds. For example, the chairperson of a journalist’s SACCO in Kanungu district swindled Shs 29 million.
There were also issues of poor loan recovery and defaulting by some SACCO members. Some people have been arrested for non-loan repayment.
The SACCOs with fewer associations received the same money with the SACCOs with more associations. Therefore, the SACCOs with more associations should accordingly receive more money.
The top-bottom approach of this programme did not allow the SACCOs to identify their problems and therefore, identify and own the solutions to these problems.
Hon Lilian Aber (NRM, Kitgum district) observed that it was a lesson to us to take our time to implement government programmes of such a magnitude.
“The Minister should send a communication and guideline to give people eight months to start payment instead of four months,” she pleaded.
Omoro Woman MP, Catherine Lamwaka said that most of the trainings were being done by the Microfinance Support Centre yet they do not have the capacity to reinforce the SACCOs and associations under these SACCOs.
“The government needs to anchor the Microfinance Support Centre to build the capacity in training and supervision of the disbursement of such funds,” Lamwaka added.
Hon. Sarah Najjuma (NRM, Nakaseke district) queried the programme being under the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) when the districts have various accounting officers, “We had partisan RDCs who were sparsely on ground and coordination was poor.
The programme should be integrated into the local government structures and monitored by the various accounting officers at the different district levels.
Hon. Rachel Magoola (NRM, Bugweri district) said the Emyooga programme was not a total failure because there are beneficiary groups that are flourishing.
However, she said systemic problems are the Achilles’ heel of the programme and asked the government to go back to a drawing board and use the cooperative mentality to run the association.
“The district SACCOs cannot organise the associations at a parish level; you cannot get a tailor from one sub-county to be in an association with a tailor from another sub-county,” Magoola added.
The state finance minister for Microfinance, Haruna Kasolo, under whose docket the Emyooga initiative falls pledged to take all the concerns raised by the MPs to cabinet and report back to Parliament with a harmonised solution to the issues raised.
The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among, said there was need for a law that directs wealth creation programmes like Emyooga for them to be rolled out in an orderly manner for the benefit of the citizenry.
“We need a law that will have a bearing on the implementation and training of the Emyooga in a structured and clear manner,” she said, adding that the entire programme failed at the design and structural level of implementation.
“The President was misled by some of you people in the central government; you keep telling him it was a success yet it was far from that,” said the Deputy Speaker.
Among instructed the minister to produce a monthly report and also adopt all concerns and recommendations raised in the different reports.