Fort Portal, Uganda | URN | The Fort Portal Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Rodgers Mbabazi has unearthed more than 20 ghost Emyooga groups.
Mr Mbabazi says that he made the discovery when he tried to verify the lists of prospective beneficiaries in the city.
In April 2021, Mbabazi stopped the issuance of certificates to all 36 Emyooga groups in Fort Portal after the commercial officer, Michael Karwani failed to avail the lists of the intended beneficiaries. While meeting Sacco leaders at Kyebambe Girls Secondary School main hall, Mbabazi argued that he could not allow the issuance of the certificates to the Emyooga applicants yet some of them from the same groups did not even know each other. He tasked Karwani to produce the lists of the beneficiaries before embarking on any other process.
About three weeks later, Karwani produced the lists but the RCC insisted that the members of each group appear physically with their national IDs to confirm their existence. Mbabazi has now told our reporter in an exclusive interview, that over 20 SACCO Emyooga groups have already been verified. He however says nobody showed up to confirm members for more than 20 other groups.
He says that this was shocking given the fact that the commercial officer called the group leaders several times to mobilize their members. Mbabazi says some of the ghost groups were found in the SACCOs of salon operators, produce dealers and performing artists.
He also says that he was shocked to find some groups had names of civil servants in Fort Portal and they had to delete them because they are not among the intended beneficiaries. Mbabazi argued that with the members failing to turn for physical verification, it means the groups were forged.
He says there is going to be a strict verification exercise of the remaining 16 Saccos, saying all ghost groups will be thrown out. Karwani says the group members could have failed to surface because as the commercial office, they did not have funds to make radio announcements calling them for the verification exercise. He however could not explain how hundreds of other groups were able to turn up.
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Emyooga is a presidential initiative on job and wealth creation that targets 18 clusters including restaurants owners, boda-boda riders, women entrepreneurs, carpenters, salon operators, journalists, People with Disabilities, fishermen, mechanics, performing artists and taxi operators. Each constituency was given 560 Million Shillings.
The estimated nationwide budget for the programme is 260 Billion Shillings. Of this, Kampala and Wakiso districts were allocated Shillings 26 billion and 14 billion respectively. Some financial statements that our reporter has seen show that about Shillings 30 million was deposited on each of the Sacco’s account in Fort Portal city in November last year, but no Sacco have ever accessed the funds.
Mbabazi says that after the verification exercise, they want the Saccos to come up with business plans. He also adds that Saccos have to hold general meetings where the commercial officer and his team can train them on how the initiative works before they can access the money.