Ugandan Members of Parliament (MPs) are calling for an investigation into a controversial expenditure of Shs9.6 billion allocated for various coffee-related activities, including an initiative to teach Ugandans how to consume coffee. Concerns have arisen over the possible misuse of public funds and a lack of accountability in the project.
The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, expressed her disapproval of the project, which was approved by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and executed under the supervision of Inspire Africa (U) Limited.
Among stated that the expenditure on coffee consumption appeared wasteful and called for an independent investigation into the matter, separate from the Treasury Memorandum process. She emphasized the need to hold the individuals responsible for the expenditure accountable through a serious investigation.
This directive from the Speaker was supported by John Teira, an MP from Bugabula North, who urged for strong action to be taken against the officials involved in the project.
The controversy surrounding the expenditure was brought to light by the findings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following an audit by the Auditor General’s office. According to the PAC report, Inspire Africa utilized the Shs9.662 billion it received for four main activities:
- Shs3.83 billion was allocated for training youth in coffee production.
- Shs2.65 billion was dedicated to teaching youth financial literacy and business governance.
- Shs1.9 billion was intended for establishing coffee shops and related infrastructure to promote coffee consumption.
- The project’s administration costs consumed Shs1.3 billion.
However, the Auditor General discovered that several coffee shops planned for Tororo, Arua, Mbale, and Lira were never established. The project’s activities also deviated from the promises outlined in the contract approved by the OPM. Intelligence police officers found that operations at the Malaba outlet were short-lived, and the proceeds from the business were funneled back to Inspire Africa’s bank account in Kampala.
MPs expressed outrage and described the expenditure as unnecessary, inappropriate, and damaging to Uganda’s global reputation. Some questioned the legitimacy of teaching Ugandans how to drink coffee, while others demanded an explanation from the OPM regarding the curriculum used for the coffee education initiative.
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mathias Mpuuga, called the project one of the biggest scandals of their time and urged the House to be more proactive in scrutinizing similar projects before they receive funding. He emphasized the importance of supporting coffee production in the country to meet market demands and promote economic growth.
In response, Rukia Nakadama, the third Deputy Prime Minister, defended the project, stating that its purpose was to popularize coffee consumption in Uganda rather than teach people how to drink coffee. She clarified that the project’s title may have been misleading, and a Treasury Memorandum would be forthcoming.
The controversy highlights concerns over the allocation and use of public funds in Uganda and the need for greater transparency and oversight in government projects.