Masindi district officials accused of mismanaging funds meant for empowering local groups

By Alan Mwesigwa

Legislators and councilors in Masindi District are urging investigative agencies, including the Office of the Inspector General of Government and the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, to conduct thorough investigations into the allocation of funds meant for empowering local communities.

Concerns have been raised regarding the lack of transparency in the distribution of funds intended for various economic empowerment initiatives, such as parish development funds, micro-project funds, youth livelihood, and elderly support. Leaders are alleging that ghost groups owned by civil servants are benefiting at the expense of the targeted beneficiaries.

Dr. Asiimwe Florence, the Woman Member of Parliament for Masindi District, has emphasized the need for transparency in disclosing the beneficiaries of these funds. She pointed out that there is a lack of clarity regarding which groups and individuals are benefiting from these economic empowerment programs.

Technical officers, led by District Chief Administrative Officer Phionah Sanyu, have been cited as the primary figures responsible for the lack of transparency in fund allocation.

Masindi District, situated approximately 220 kilometers west of Uganda's capital, Kampala, has a population of around 94,622 people.

Despite the city's recent expansion and change in status, there are challenges in ensuring transparent and equitable distribution of funds to promote economic development in the region.

In the most recent financial year, the Ugandan parliament approved a budget of one trillion shillings to fund the Parish Development Model (PDM), aimed at supporting households at the parish level. However, concerns have been raised about the allocation of these funds, with allegations that a significant portion is not reaching the intended beneficiaries.

According to available data, over 3,317 households have benefited from about 3.3 billion shillings out of the 4.9 billion shillings allocated for the PDM funds sent to Masindi District. However, leaders claim that it is difficult to trace the groups and individuals who have received the funds.

Dr. Florence expressed her frustration.

"You only hear that people got money, but tracing these groups is a nightmare. For instance, I am told of a group dealing in cattle fattening, but finding their location is challenging. When you ask, no one is willing to provide directions." She stated

The issue extends beyond a lack of transparency. Leaders also highlight challenges related to the limited number of staff and office space. Many public officials in the region lack means of transportation, which further hampers their ability to deliver services effectively.

The Chairman of Masindi District, Dr. Cosmas Byaruhanga, advised that Dr. Florence should engage with the district chairman's office rather than approaching technical personnel directly.

Byaruhanga emphasized the importance of adhering to established protocols to obtain the necessary information.

In addition to the PDM funds, the Office of the Prime Minister initiated the Micro Project Support fund, allocating 269 million shillings in the last financial year to benefit 77 groups.

However, only 43 of these groups were verified, and the funds never reached the verified beneficiaries. Instead, it was discovered that new, unknown groups, believed to have connections with civil servants, were added to the list.

The Chairperson of the Masindi District Social Services Committee, Councilor Nyangahya Goodman Farouk, revealed that a committee was established four months ago to investigate irregularities related to the allocation of funds to ghost groups. However, no report has been presented, and more groups continue to raise concerns.

Efforts to obtain information from Principal Development Officer Bahemuka Godfrey were unsuccessful, as he was not present in his office. His junior officer, Businge Vincent Masindi, admitted that verified groups were scrapped, and new, unknown groups were introduced. Vincent expressed a willingness to cooperate in ensuring that the right groups receive the funds.

Leaders in Masindi District are now urging investigative agencies to look into all government funds allocated to the region, citing a lack of transparency among technocrats.

They are committed to providing information and support for any investigations that may shed light on the alleged misallocation of funds, as they fear that the failure to support local communities will lead to reduced incomes, affecting local revenues and the implementation of essential social services.

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