Why Museveni wants lawmakers to take lead in mobilizing for Parish Development Model program

President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday made a clarion call to the Members of Parliament to rigorously engage their electorates to embrace the Parish Development Model (PDM) a program that has been well structured to end household poverty in the country.

Arising from one of the major campaign promises of the 2021 general elections which Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) won, the PDM is supposed to lift the 69 percent of the households still locked in the subsistence economy out of poverty.

Addressing a special sitting of Parliament at the Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala, the President rallied the MPs to emulate the method he deployed in the cattle corridor in the 1990s when he mobilized the herdsmen out of nomadism. He said that such engagements are not costly because people don’t need to be paid to participate in meetings that are aimed at guiding them out of poverty.

“Talk and let them also talk to you and then you try to discern what is holding them back. And don’t buy them food, if they don’t come, let them don’t come. Tell them you don’t have money for food. The people go to church, does the Reverend feed them? It is because you have misled them,” said the President.

Unlike other previous wealth creation programs that have been marred by challenges like corruption and bureaucracy, the PDM is designed in a way that the households that form a Parish Savings and Credit Corporative Society (Sacco) to decide on what enterprises to engage in depending on what is viable in the area.

Government plans to send Shs100m to each Parish per financial year and this money is put on the bank account of the parish Sacco for purposes of being loaned out to 100 households annually, each taking Shs1m.

Museveni who said that the MPs need to take lead in the fight against poverty by preaching about social-economic transformation which is one of the core principles of the NRM. He told the House sitting that was boycotted by majority of the opposition legislators that government appreciated the need for the people to decide for themselves what production activities they venture in.

The President also raised a red flag on some of the wrong practices that are threatening the success of the government’s signature wealth creation program for the current term.

Museveni said that he had identified loopholes in the implementation of PDM during his last month’s regional tour of Acholi sub-region. He intends to tour all the 18 zones in the country to monitor the implementation of PDM.

The government in the last financial year disbursed Shs17m to each of the successfully registered parish Sacco, while by the end of the 2022/23 financial year in June, Shs1.59 trillion will have been sent to the parishes. So far, 9538 out of the 10594 parishes in the whole country have successfully formed Saccos where the money is channeled directly from the treasury for the members of the different enterprise groups to borrow and invest in production.

But the President who confirmed that the Saccos have received funds although they have not yet spent it because of glitches in the guidelines, warned that there are civil servants who are already abusing the PDM program.

 “I have started touring and inspecting the 18 zones of Uganda. I started with Acholi between 23rd and 24th February and straight away the wananchi (citizens) told me of parasites like flies forming around PDM and Emyooga money. I will decisively follow in Acholi and if they tempered with money, they will be an example to the rest of the potential flies” the President warned.

Museveni who said he decided to address Parliament after reading copies of the legislators’ PDM monitoring reports from a two weeks recess, warned the civil servants against abusing the program while mobilizing the benefiting households to form parish Saccos.

He said that the Minister of Local Government, Raphael Magyezi should explain to Parliament more about the guidelines for the implementation of the PDM.

“There is this group where somebody called Commercial Officer calls a meeting of a few people to form the leadership of the Sacco without involving the whole Parish. But we said all people in the parish must join the Sacco as long as they are 18 and above” he revealed.

Adding that; “in this issue of Gulu, somebody announced the meeting at 9am and the meeting happened at 2pm and a few people created a leadership. Then in Aswa (still in Acholi sub-region), instead of going to the Parish, they were called to the Sub- County so that people get tired and don’t go. When they were called to subcounty, they were told that each parish bring 30 people. Who told you that? This is not a direct election of saying bring 30 people”.

Parliament has not yet received, debated and adopted the sub-regional reports from the monitoring excesses which was carried out during recess. But the President who said he had received the copies from Speaker Anita Among, seemed worried of the national outlook the challenges facing PDM are taking.

According to the MPs who are privy to the reports of the sub-region, the challenges facing PDM are many. These include, poor mindset where some people think that the seed capital is free money since the PDM was first preached during campaigns; some of the data collectors have never been paid; parish Saccos are yet to access the money of the accounts; a need for a means of transport and office space for the parish Chiefs, among others.

In what looks to be a possible direction by the Executive to change the implementation guidelines, Museveni said that Sacco leaderships should not compel households to borrowing Shs1m each when they cannot manage to put it to use.

The PDM policy is that the Shs100m sent to each Parish every financial year, will strictly be loaned out to 100 households that are involved in the different enterprises already agreed upon locally.

The President however, insisted that only those who want to borrow more than Shs1m should not be entertained by the Parish Sacco because that means they are not among the 69 percent households that continue to wallow in poverty.

“But these confused people go and tell people that you can’t borrow unless you are taking Sh1m. Who told you I can’t borrow Shs200000? This (borrowing less than Shs1m) means you will lend to many people” he added.

With fears that the money that remains idle on the parish Sacco accounts may be swept back to the Consolidated Fund if not spent by June 30, Museveni insisted that that should not be done.

“Therefore, in my view, if the money is not used this year let us keep it. Don’t divert it so that the fund builds up. Because you remember this money is a nucleus for a parish bank. If they want, members of the Sacco, once they are convinced, they can start saving and adding on. So, don’t talk of taking it back. Keep it aside until people will be able to use it” the President insisted.

It is not clear whether the government will have to first cause an amendment to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 in order for the parish Saccos to retain the unspent money by the end of the financial year.

Section 17 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 provides that; a vote that does not expend money that was appropriated to the vote for the financial year shall at the close of the financial year, repay the money to the Consolidated Fund.

Prior to the Presidential address to Parliament, Ugandans were speculating that Museveni would use the occasion to condemn the recent scandal in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in which the iron sheets meant for resettlement of disarmed Karimajong warriors were shared among top government officials.

When he hinted, his speech had come to an end at about 4:15pm, some of the MPs were heard shouting “talk about iron sheets” but Museveni insisted that whoever has issues that need to be addressed should write to him.

On Wednesday, Speaker Anita Among, one of the beneficiaries informed Parliament that though she did not request for the iron sheets that were delivered to her District of Bukedea, she had taken a personal decision to return them.

“I have taken a personal decision as a leader, that since they (iron sheets) were not allocated to my District, but also the iron sheets were already given out, I have decided to buy the 500 iron sheets and give them back. My personal assistant will take back the iron sheets to OPM” the Speaker told Parliament.

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, 1st Deputy Prime Minister Rebecca Kadaga, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Karamoja Minister Mary Goret Kitutu, Government Chief Whip Denis Hamson Obua, are among the top leaders on the list of the beneficiaries of the iron sheets meant for Karamoja.

There have been media reports that the President had banged tables in the Cabinet meeting of March 6, 2023 while grilling his Ministers about diverting iron sheets meant for Karamoja. He is quoted as saying that the listed Ministers should instead “report themselves to the police”.

The Uganda police, the Inspector General of Government and the House Committee on Presidential Affairs are parallelly probing the iron sheets bonanza and their reports are expected soon.

Meanwhile, Speaker Among, informed the President of the progress of legislation in the ongoing session of Parliament, reporting that they have so far passed 24 Bills compared to 23 in the entire first session.

“The 24 bills passed so far exceed the 23 that we passed in the last session. We still have three months (to the end of this session) meaning this will be the best session. The Members of Parliament continue to diligently execute their duties in various committees, the House and various interparliamentary fora” said Among.

She also informed the President that Parliament will next Thursday mark the first anniversary of the demise of former Speaker Jacob Oulanyah and a special sitting will be held to pay tribute to him.

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