Acholi leaders protest government suspension of youth funds

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Gulu. Leaders in Acholi Sub-region have accused government of suspending the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP) in eight districts that have failed to repay the loans by at least 50 per cent.
In 2014, the government, through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, financed 8,213 projects at a tune of Shs58.4 billion under the Youth Livelihood Programme countrywide.
In a letter dated January 27 and signed by Mr Pius Bigirimana, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Gender and circulated to all chief administrative officers, the ministry suspended funding to 80 districts citing poor monitoring and supervision which has led to limited impact.

According to the letter, the districts whose repayment schedules fall below 50 per cent will not receive further funding until the funds are recovered. Also, resources meant for those districts will be reallocated to those that have demonstrated competence in managing the fund.
However, the decision has divided the district leadership in the region, who have accused the ministry of taking the decision hurriedly.
Acholi parliamentary group secretary general and Kilak South MP Gilbert Olanya said government has to seek ways of dealing with individuals who have messed up the programme without necessarily terminating the entire project.

“I am sure the projects are impacting many youth in Acholi sub-region although there are individuals with ill motives who have always tried to sabotage it. The ministry rushed to cancel it but we shall petition the prime minister’s office to have the decision reversed,” Mr Olanya said.
Meanwhile, Gulu District chairman Martin Ojara Mapenduzi said: “The ministry needs to investigate why the project failed in some sub-counties. For example, most agriculture-oriented projects failed due to bad weather. The ministry should revise their approach.”
In Acholi sub-region, 45 groups shared Shs440 million received in the 2014/2015 Financial Year, and they have since paid back only Shs25 million (Gulu 37%, Pader 22%, Lamwo 28%, Agago 34%, Amuru 14%).

The district youth chairperson, Mr Ensio Okello, said the programme has been over politicised.
“Politicians came out openly in their last campaigns telling the youth that the cash given was not refundable thus making the youth reluctant to pay back,” he said.
In Lamwo, group chairpersons allegedly connived with their group members to use the money given to them for other purposes, according to Mr Moses Apiliga, the district youth chairperson.
“The district was given Shs200 million to benefit 32 groups, but we managed to raise only Sh32 million although we shall put the different groups to task to have the money recovered including arrest of groups with red cards,” Mr Apiliga said.

In a telephone interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday, Mr Bigirimana said those implicated in embezzling YLP funds will be arrested and charged. He said some districts had failed to repay back the money due to fraud and failure to monitor and supervise members’ performance effectively.
“No group or individual will run away with this money. We have their records, including photos,”Mr Bigirimana said.
He maintained that the ministry’s stand not to release funding to the districts that have failed to meet the required 50 per cent repayment schedule will stand until they prove their worth.
He said the decision to cut funding was reached after careful analysis of the districts’ quarterly performance reports and circumstances under which districts or groups failed to repay the money.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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