88 LOCALS WANT PROBE INTO SHS833BN GROW PROJECT FUNDS CLAIMING CONFLICT OF INTEREST
BY ADAM MUHEESI
On September 12, 2023, a 3-page dossier in form of a petition reached and was duly received by the World Bank. The petition is also backed up by 88 locals who even attached their National IDs [NINs] asking the Margarita Puerto Gomez, the top World Bank team leader to cause a probe into the GROWPROJECT-UGANDA. The project is being implemented under the Ministry for Gender, Labour and Social Development headed by Hon. Betty Amongi Akena while Private Sector Foundation is the implementing partner.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The World Bank gave a grant worth USD217m [about Shs833bn] to implement the Generating Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises otherwise abbreviated as GROW PROJECT.
Indeed, on November 13 last year, Jjajja Yoweri in his letter referenced as PO/10 gave a green light to the implementation of the project whose aim is to help reduce gender inequality by promoting women’s economic empowerment through investment targeting small scale businesses effective January 20 2023.
With Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja sitting in the big chair, this project was launched at Kololo on March 8 2022 targeting 60000 female-owned enterprises including 3000 refugees owned businesses, 280000 women entrepreneurs and employees and 1.6million indirect beneficiaries.
According to the petitioners led by Otucu Bonny, the ministry thus ran adverts to recruit technical staff to implement the GROW project. However, they claim this recruitment process was marred by what they termed as gross irregularities. The petitioners also told the World Bank that the implementation guidelines and criteria for selecting the beneficiaries and manner in which funds/loans to the beneficiaries is to be disbursed is vague.
The group also accuses Amongi of conflict of interest because she’s said to be the owner of a local organization NUWEBIZ/AROVA Producers Cooperative Society Limited; organizations said to be sourcing funds/grants from government for giving ‘her’ personal loans.
“Realizing that in Lira City and Oyam South, NUWEBIZ FOUNDATION owned by hon. Amongi is lending funds from a source likely to be the GROW PROJECT at an interest rate of 10% per annum upon payment of non-refundable fee of Shs50000 loan processing fee; realizing that hon. Amongi launched the disbursement of Shs300m loan scheme to the youths and women groups and further announced to give additional Shs500m to beneficiaries of the project in Lira City and Oyam, now we concerned citizens who are directly affected by difficulties in accessing these funds and are being lured to receive the hustler loan funds through NUWEBIZ without clarity and transparency in its implementation, have considered to seek your intervention and investigate the involvement of Hon. Amongi in the GROW PROJECT and her role in the ongoing financial loaning by NUWEBIZ foundation as a safeguard to the GROW project” reads the petition.
It was copied to the IGG, the speaker, finance and other entities. Efforts to talk to Hon. Amongi were futile by press time but a source in the ministry said no funds under GROW project have so far been released.
“The World Bank is laughing at us Ugandans for the level of disorganization we’re exhibiting. They [WB] are aware that no such funds have yet been released. But as a ministry, we are happy people are following what programs the ministry is bringing and they must keep following them. These programs are meant for them and they must fully get involved. The honorable minister will address the nation at an appropriate time when all plans are ready” said an official in the ministry who said the minister was away on official duties. Well, the petition is hereto attached!