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MPs quiz Bigirimana on failing to recover UGX28Bn Youth Livelihood Funds

Former PS of Ministry of Gender, Pius Bigirimana, faces scrutiny over failure to recover UGX28 billion Youth Livelihood Funds. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – The former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, Pius Bigirimana was yesterday quizzed by lawmakers on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over the management of the Youth Livelihood Fund after warning from the Auditor General that Government over UGX 28Bn dished out to the youths.

The 30th June 2018 Audit report noted that the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development budgeted for Shs231.2bn for the FY 2013/2014 to FY 2017/2018 but only UGX161.1bn (69.7%) was released to the program resulting in a shortfall of UGX70.1bn (30.3%) for the Youth Livelihood Fund.

The audit report noted that due to the shortfall in funding, only 15,979 (67%) of the proposed 23,850 projects were funded which ended up affecting the number of youths who had been targeted by the program by benefiting only 195,644 out of 286,200 youths, (68%) by 30th June 2018.

Although Government is being faulted for not committing the funds to the Ministry’s full request, the Auditors also faulted the Ministry in the way the Fund has been managed pointing out that out of the UGX38.8bn that was disbursed to 5,505 YIGs in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, on average, only 26.7% was recovered from the youth countrywide.

“There is high profitability that the balance of almost UGX28.4bn may never be recovered as almost 64% of the sampled projects, consisting of 71% value of loans were non-existent. Another 25% had reportedly embezzled or diverted the funds,” the report read in part.

On the other hand, the Fund registered some improvements between 2015/16 to 2017/18 with the report noting that out of a total amount of UGX83.3bn disbursed to 10,444 Youth Groups, there was a noted improvement of recoveries ranging from 24% in 2015/16 in 2017/18 which is still below satisfactory performance.

Bigirimana was transferred from the Ministry of Gender to now take up as the Secretary to Judiciary, replacing Kagole Kivumbi who was put on forced leave pending investigations into the mismanagement of Judiciary funds.

However, as per rules, Bigirimana is required to account for the funds under his watch at Gender Ministry led the Ministry team before PAC where he was asked to explain why he failed to recover money given to the youths.

Bugirimana told the Committee that the recovery has now reached 70% and stated that some recovery was not done due to natural disasters like drought and diseases that affected the items procured by the youth with this fund, but the explanation was rejected by MPs who pointed out that although Bigirimana was painted a rosy picture on recovery rates, this was different from audit investigations.

“The recovery couldn’t be done because of the reasons I gave you, one of them is to do with natural calamities which affected the projects that were being implemented those years and you will not recover that money. But since 2015/2016 there has been a remarkable improvement.”Bigirimana replied.

Still, the explanation was rejected by MPs who tasked Bigirimana to produce a detailed schedule for Youth Livelihood Fund, SAGE and Uganda Women Empowerment Program across the country including details of beneficiary groups and recovery level.

It was then that Bigirimana pleaded with the Committee to allow him to handle emergencies arguing, “Please kindly if you can let me go sign off some payment, am receiving messages, UMEME has switched off; the Yaka is not on. James Ebitu (Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender) has got what it takes to answer the queries, if he fails, I will come and answer them.”

The Committee heeded to Bigirimana’s pleas but not without reminding him that, whatever went out under his watch, he will have to provide answers to the queries.

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