KAMPALA – The country is likely to register similar confusions with money transfers as experienced during the relief food distribution to the vulnerable people during the initial countrywide lockdown instituted to halt further transmission of Covid-19, experts have predicted.
After President Yoweri Museveni announced new measures to curtail the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic last Friday, where public and private transport as well as businesses, were suspended; the Office of the Prime Minister – OPM announced on Sunday that they would be sending money to vulnerable groups to cater for their food needs for the 42 days.
While modalities of how the exercise will be implemented are still pending, experts say they will face a challenge of identifying the right beneficiaries of the relief.
Nathan Isabirye, a research fellow based at the Makerere University School of Public Health said while money would be ideal for the vulnerable poor to make independent choices on what food they needed to eat, the hurdle was in identifying the real people in need.
He said while telecoms can provide some clue, majority of the people use two or more networks for their mobile money transactions – which was likely to cause a risk as double benefits for some was likely at the expense of others.
Isabirye who did a study on the previous relief food distribution, its impact and lessons for the country said the fact that government used security operatives in distribution of food and using OPM as the sole source of food was all wrong.
Reports of misuse of funds for the food and poor quality food were reported both in the media and highlighted in the Auditor General’s report. They showed that items valued at Ugx 55.8 billion, which were distributed by OPM couldn’t be verified if they were actually purchased as they lacked receipts.
On her part, Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director Nutrition Advocacy Organization Food Rights Alliance – FRA welcomed the change in strategy to allow people get cash but is as well worried that the country operates without a vulnerability register, which shows the number of people who are needy.
The risk of swindling the money has been redistributed from having a few individuals supplying substandard food and earning high from it, she worries.
Isabirye recommends using local council leaders to record phone numbers of family heads that can receive the mobile money.
However, OPM spokesperson Julius Mucunguzi revealed that details of how implementation of the cash rations will be carried out would be released after a meeting of the task force, which will be held on Tuesday.
Before the Tuesday meeting, Prime Minister Robina Nabbanja revealed that they are considering using both mobile money and voucher system for the vulnerable poor who don’t have registered phone lines. It has not yet been explained how the voucher system will work.