EMYOOGA PROGRAM IN BUGANDA MARRED BY POLITICS
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By Joel Mugabi
MPs from the Buganda sub-region have listed politics as one of the challenges that affected the implementation of the Emyooga Program in the different districts.
At the start of last month, Deputy Speaker Anita Among sent MPs to their constituencies to monitor the progress of the Emyooga Program, which was put in place by President Yoweri Museveni in 2019 to help create jobs through extending seed capital to associations and SACCOs whose members are engaged in at least one of the 18 categories of enterprises (emyooga).
According to a report filed by MPs from Buganda, at least 1,749 SACCOs were licensed and given seed capital. Of these, 719 were within Kampala and Wakiso while 1,030 were from other districts. The MPs say that most of the SACCOs in each of the constituencies had received the funds except in cases where there were pending issues regarding registration and other guidelines.
The Buganda legislators were impressed by the safeguards that some commercial officers and association members had put in place to help fight fraud and misuse of the seed capital. For example, the report indicates, the Commercial Officer for Kawempe demands that SACCOS provide accountability for every Shs10m million of the withdrawn seed capitol. In Sembabule, association members are only allowed to borrow three times their savings and must have two members of the Association as sureties.
But there were concerns that the members could only raise issues during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and that the members seemed unable to do much to hold the executive to account and couldn’t influence most of the decisions concerning their SACCOs.
On the issue of alleged extortion as has been detailed in reports from other regions, the “members observed that the issue of extortion would not and did not arise. However extortion is still under investigation for association’s members’ access to finance from the SACCO Managers.”
The legislators also found out that District Commercial Officers were unable to conduct trainings for Emyooga Program beneficiaries. In most districts, only Apex SACCO executives had been trained and had knowledge about the running of the program.
The MPs also noted that because the Emyooga were identified by government officials such as RDCs and CAOs, and the formation of SACCOs and parish associations overseen by the same, several would-be intended beneficiaries were left out.
“Sensitization wasn’t enough to the point that some communities mistook the fund to be political handouts,” reads the report in part. “The initiative was marred with political undertones since it was mostly promoted during campaigns of general elections. Hence it was marred with political patronization and beneficiaries had o misconception that the funds were a gift from the President for onward sharing.”
Other challenges include: failure by government to consider the costs of administration such as rent and bank charges; failure to profile membership of SACCOs and associations hence including members who had defaulted in previous fund programs extended to youths and women; lack of resources for RDCs and Commercial Officers to monitor the program; lack of enough officials to offer advisory services to SACCOs since the 54 Microfinance Support Centre staff available for that purpose as well as the Commercial Officers were overwhelmed by the number of SACCOs; decline in maintaining operational structures and record keeping after SACCOs and associations received funds; as well as disruptions caused by the Covid19 pandemic which affected the activities of the SACCOs.
The MPs from Buganda recommended that the Emyooga Program be changed from focusing on individual investments to collective investments such as is the case in Kalangala where bodaboda groups bought commercial motorcycles that bring in proceeds in the short and long terms.
They also called on the Minister in charge of Cooperatives to expedite the process for the formation of a Cooperative Bank as well as the Credit Reference Bureau as required under Section 19 and 55ab of the Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Act 2020; proposed replacement of Emyooga Guidelines with a binding law or statutory instrument, inclusion of a four-month grace period to allow SACCOs, translation of Emyooga Program documents into local languages, rollout a credit rating system to throw out defaulting associations and members; as well as strengthening of monitoring mechanisms.
Overall, the Buganda MPs noted that while “the initiative was well thought out,” it was “hurriedly done without adequate sensitization and training.” They added: “Given that it has operated for less than two years, it is [our] considered opinion that when given more time and [if] the recommendations fronted by various stakeholders [are followed], there will be socioeconomic transformation in the country.” (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at email@example.com).