The Parliamentary Accounts Committee on Local Government sitting in Gulu has discovered that millions of shillings loaned to youth groups in the municipality have been to recipients who have disappeared without trace. Thirty-seven groups in the municipality received Shs327m under the Youth Livelihood Fund since 2014 but only Shs66m has been recovered. The recipients have failed to repay and cannot be traced either.
The shocked committee chairman Reagan Okumu wondered how groups that received millions of shillings could be able to repay only Shs10,000. It is not only in Gulu. This plunder is countrywide.
In 2017, the Ministry of Gender and Labour, which oversees the Youth Livelihood Programme, released a report showing billions of shillings paid to various youth groups had been embezzled and the thieving groups disappeared. Government suspended funding to 80 districts across the country.
Shs64b had been paid out nationally, but only Shs7b had been recovered by January 2017. Apac District received Shs622m for 72 groups, but only Shs38m had been recovered by the time of the report. Kole District got Shs316m for 47 groups, but only Shs63m had been paid back and the situation was similar countrywide.
The government must stop this reckless wastage of taxpayers’ money in mediocre programmes that do not serve any meaningful purpose. If these billions of shillings gifted to quack youth groups had been used to furnish local health centres with medical equipment or schools with scholastic materials, there would be tangible improvement in people’s healthcare or children’s learning. Parliament must check this wastage of public funds and review this programmes and reject similar others in future.
In 1997, government created another sham fund called Entandikwa scheme. Billions of shillings in revolving loans were given to people under the guise of eliminating poverty. However, nobody repaid a single shilling and they all remained in poverty. It was replicated as Youth Livelihood Fund during the 2011 and 2016 presidential election campaigns. Other than for political expedience, the Fund has not served any useful purpose.
Right now, government cannot measure how many youth have got out of poverty as a result of this funding. There is no point in continuing with such a hemorrhagic futile scheme that lacks a proper plan on eligibility for or recovery of the loans. Parliament should review the Youth Livelihood Programme and halt this shameless plunder.
Government should put in place a strict mechanism for monitoring and recovery of money with a system to measure success. As it stands now, it is a programme of wastage that requires urgent review, restructuring or total disbandment.