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MPs task Soroti city authorities on accountability of Covid-19 relief funds

Soroti City Clerk Ambrose Ocen presents report on COVID-19 relief fund. URN photo

Soroti, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The joint Parliamentary Committees of Public Accounts and the Local Government have given Soroti city authorities up to Friday to submit a comprehensive report on the disbursement of Covid-19 relief funds.

The legislators were left in shock at Soroti city hall on Monday after discovering anomalies in management of the database for the beneficiaries.

The MPs who were in Soroti to follow up how the government relief funds for Covid-19 were disbursed discovered that some of the listed beneficiaries were not among the categories prioritized by government.

During their interface with the Soroti city top leadership, the legislators found out that some of the beneficiaries were paid money basing on their personal relationship with city officials or political inclination with the enrolment officers and village chairpersons.

The team led by Kumi Municipality MP Silas Aogon noted that whereas so many offices like Resident City Commissioner, City Intelligence security officer, town agents and village chairpersons among others were involved in collecting data, the list of people allegedly paid has glaring irregularities.

Aogon said that a random check on the list of 4,677 people allegedly paid under Soroti city surprised the team when they discovered that a 76 year old disabled woman had been included in the list as a food vendor. The beneficiary, Anne Teresa Amoding, when called said that she stays in Anyara sub county in Kalaki district.

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP and another member in the committee says that whereas the initiative by government was good, the program was rushed and didn’t achieve the intended purpose. Opendi implored government to make the best use of statistics at UBOS in situations where such data is required.

According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the COVID-19 relief fund was meant for people whose daily income generating activities were affected by the lockdown. The groups include the bar attendants, taxi drivers, wheel barrow pushers, conductors, garbage collectors, saloon operators, boda boda cyclists among others.

In Soroti city however, a total of 731 people that was earlier recommended for the fund were dropped because of inconsistency in the names, wrong telephone contacts, National Identification Number and other irregularities.

Ambrose Ocen, the City clerk says they were limited to only 4,677 people amidst the overwhelming demand from people affected by the lockdown. Ocen who acknowledged that there were some errors in the list of beneficiaries asked government to provide database to local governments for easy implementation of such programs.

Michael Opio, a boda boda cyclist at Ariet House says there was discrimination in registration and payments of vulnerable people based on personal relationship with the officers at the city.

Before the disbursement of cash to beneficiaries, the opposition legislators asked government to halt the program until the matter is debated in Parliament. But the money was reportedly disbursed following the demand from the affected groups.

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