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Donors threaten to quit elderly grant over Shs17bn gov’t arrears

The elderly grant risks being scrapped off by donors following the government arrears (FILE PHOTO)

PARLIAMENT – The plans by the UK donor group were made public on Wednesday during a press briefing held at Parliament by MPs on the Parliamentary Forum of Social Protection, where it was reported that the DFID has already invested £ 18M (Shs92 billion)with hopes of injecting funds up to 2020.

Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DFID and Irish Aid Uganda to implement a phased national rollout of the SAGE programme, in which government undertook to provide counterpart funding of Shs149Bn between FY2015/2016.

However, as much as the donors have met their part of the deal, the Government has not been consistent in providing adequate counterpart funding which saw arrears of beneficiary payments to accumulate, something MPs say has caused anxiety among senior citizens on the scheme and has further constrained effective delivery of program outcomes.

Florence Kiyingi, Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, Ms. Jennie Barugh, Head of Office, DFID and Mr. Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative (Credit: UNFPA)

With arrears threatening to hit the roof top, the Ministry of Gender together with the Ministry of Finance processed a supplementary budget request amounting to Shs15.38Bn for SAGE to be spent in FY2017/2018.

And whereas Parliament approved Shs15,38Bn supplementary on 3rd May 2018, to cater for counterpart funding contribution towards SAGE and clearing of arrears for the older persons payments in 42 districts, the funds have not been released and yet there are only two weeks left to the closure of the Financial Year.

Yet still, this isn’t the only time the Ministry of Finance is accused of playing monkey tricks on the SAGE funds as the same case was witnessed following the 2017/2018 budget that approved Shs17.5Bn, as SAGE, and only Shs15.20Bn was released leaving a shortfall of Shs2.3Bn.

Jacob Opolot, Chairperson of the Forum called on both the Ministry of Finance and DFID to be more responsible and respect the rights of existing SAGE beneficiaries and have the money availed.

PS Ministry of Finance, Keith Muhakanizi (FILE PHOTO)

He warned against the closure of the programme arguing: “Its closure will reverse all the gains as a country in the area of social protection for ordinary citizens and will be mockery of cross-party support in Parliament and across the country. We request DFID to exercise restraint as an early exit will undermine Government plans to evolve a national social protection system and frostier inclusive development in Uganda.”

Another MP called out Ministry of Finance for acting with impunity and contempt towards decisions made by

Parliament, saying the Ministry officials have turned into con artists.

The Forum warned against the disbandment of SAGE saying this will jeopardize lives of 148,966, yet there are plans to roll out the programme in 13 more districts.

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