OWC to have say in buying seeds, inputs

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Officers of the army-led Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) will now be directly involved in buying of inputs to distribute to farmers.

Previously, procurement was done by National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) a semi-autonomous agency within Ministry of Agriculture. This has, however, changed and an army representative will now have a say, before a decision is taken. This is said to have caused tension at Naads with some interpreting the army’s involvement not only as an interference but also an attempt to undermine them.

Deployment
OWC started in July 2013 and took over part of Naads’ work. Naads and OWC officials in separate interviews sought to allay the tensions as baseless.

Lt Gen Charles Angina, the OWC deputy commander, made the appointment in a February 10 letter. It reads, in part: “This is to deploy Lt Moses Mugisha at Naads Secretariat to represent on procurement of all items that concern OWC. The deployment doesn’t in any way affect the routine liaison work of Col GK Kigozi.”

Naads executive director, Dr Samuel Mugasi responded on March 1. “Lt Moses Mugisha has been received at Naads Secretariat. We are in a process of allocating him a suitable office and organising a familiarisation tour of the entire Secretariat.”

Lt Mugisha, who has a Masters degree in Procurement and is studying for another in Monitoring and Evaluation, was, according to a source familiar with the deployment, deployed to scrutinise all procurement decisions at Naads related to OWC and report back to OWC.

Attempts to deploy Lt Mugisha at Naads were reportedly first made in April 2016 but fell through in the face of opposition from Naads.

OWC officials, who spoke to Daily Monitor, say they took a beating over poor quality inputs, delays in delivery and fraud, among others , which have plagued the programme since its inception.

Some challenges cited include suppliers being paid but no delivery, and people without nursery beds getting tenders from Naads only for them to later act as middlemen.

Good working relations
Other issues include late delivery of inputs, and falsification where inputs are taken from the stores but diverted to the open market.

Ms Sarah Kagingo, the OWC spokesperson, said OWC’s direct involvement in procurement will help them to enforce timely delivery of seeds and other inputs.

“OWC officers receive seedlings and distribute them. Since we are responsible for this, we said let us have an eye on how the materials are procured. Procurement remains with Naads because we don’t have that mandate,” she explained.

Dr Mugasi said anyone complaining was doing so on a personal basis but Naads enjoys a good working relationship with the army. “At my level, I work with generals, why should a lieutenant cause a problem. We procure a lot of things to deal with OWC. We have no problem with this young man. In any case, he is here to do work related to OWC.”

background
Blame. Last year, President Museveni said half of the 122 million coffee seedlings distributed to farmers under the programme had dried up due to harsh weather countrywide. Officials at Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) partly blame the procurement process at National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) for the problem.

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