Sembabule, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Poor timing in the release of funds to beneficiaries of the Presidential wealth creation initiative- also known as Emyooga has been blamed for the low recovery of the program funds in Sembabule district.
Under the arrangement, the government, through the Ministry of Microfinance, mobilized groups of people with similar enterprises to form Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations-SACCOs to be supported to transform themselves from a subsistence to a market-oriented economy. Each SACCO was funded with 30 million Shillings, as a revolving fund amongst the members.
In Sembabule district, the program supervisors are struggling to recover the 2.24 billion Shillings which was lent out to the different beneficiaries in the initial stages of its implementation. According to records at the District Commercial Office, the district has only been able to recover 260 million Shillings from the 73 SACCOs that were funded.
Lwebitakuli Sub-county Chairperson Steven Akabwayi Ssenyonjo says that their assessments have established that many of the program beneficiaries are defaulting on their loan obligations because the money was released late when they could hardly make serious investments in their respective enterprises.
He adds that a majority of the program beneficiaries in the area are involved in agriculture projects, but the money was released to them in off-season periods. As a result, they had to keep the money while waiting for the seasonal rains. He explains that although the loans are overdue, the beneficiaries are still waiting for the seasonal harvest.
Juliet Ndagire, a female councillor representing Lwebitakuli Parish who is also Chairperson of Mawogala West Leaders SACCO which was funded with 50 million Shillings, says that their members received the money late in the season and couldn’t risk investing in farming during the dry spell. She says they have managed to recover only 5 million Shillings from the members, arguing that the rest are asking for more time to harvest their crops from which they expect to pay the loans.
Ndagire argues that instead of coercing the beneficiaries to return the money before their projects can earn them proceeds; the government should pick lessons and start planning for its programs based on the respective conditions of each community to avoid clashing with beneficiaries.
Gonzaga Mutesasira, the Emyooga Program Coordinator in charge of the Greater Masaka Sub-region says that despite excuses of wrong timing, they have also obtained reports of beneficiaries who never used the money for intended purposes.
He says they are already engaging the security authorities to work out modalities of arresting defaulters such that they return the funds to benefit other enterprises that are still waiting to be funded. Mutesasira however, says that they may give a benefit of the doubt to beneficiaries who have genuine reasons to delay their loan repayments as expected.