Members of the Local Governments Public Accounts Committee have suggested that the government should consider canceling loans that were distributed under the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP) and Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programmes (UWEP).
The government introduced these programs in 2014 and 2015 as initiatives to support the economic development and income improvement of young people and women. These programs, managed by the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, provided interest-free revolving fund loans to organized enterprise groups to empower them economically.
However, during their discussions with various local government leaders, who were summoned to address issues raised in the Auditor General’s 2022/23 report, the MPs noted that the loans given under these programs have not been repaid properly. This suggests that the programs did not achieve their intended goals.
Emmanuel Ongiertho, MP for Jonam County, pointed out that many of the enterprise groups funded through YLP have disbanded, and it is unlikely that the loans can be recovered from the beneficiaries. Local government leaders have been repeatedly asked by the Auditor General and the accountability committee to recover the money, but they have faced difficulties, often resorting to coercive measures against defaulters, many of whom have fled.
Ongiertho believes it’s time for the government to write off the defaulted loans, allowing beneficiaries to settle their debts and participate in other social livelihood improvement programs initiated by the government.
According to the Auditor General’s report, there is an outstanding loan balance of 129 billion Shillings out of the 175.4 billion Shillings invested in YLP. For UWEP, out of the total investment of 127.3 billion Shillings, only 74 billion Shillings has been recovered.
Ongiertho also suggests that the government should learn from the failures of previous wealth improvement programs to better plan the implementation of the Parish Development Model Program (PDM), the government’s latest social improvement initiative.
Agnes Linda Auma, the Lira District Woman Member of Parliament, who chaired some of the sessions in Masaka, stated that they will recommend to the government to forgive the loans. Despite their efforts to compel accounting officers to pursue defaulters, including threatening to withhold budget releases for poorly performing local governments, they have not achieved the desired results.
Rogers Gabriel Bwayo, the Chief Administrative Officer of Kyotera district, confirmed that many defaulters have fled their residences to evade arrest. He also acknowledged that many of the funded projects did not succeed, with beneficiaries blaming the failures on the COVID-19 pandemic.