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Gov’t To Spend Shs12bn Purchase Bicycles For PDM Chiefs

The plan by the Opposition MPs to warn Parliament on how unviable the proposal by Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to spend Shs12.7Bn for the purchase of bicycles for Parish Model Development (PDM) Chiefs and payment of rent for their offices, was rejected by their counterparts on ruling Government, who voted to okay the expenditure in the 2023/2024 National Budget.

While reading the minority report to the 2023/2024 national budget, Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala County) who doubles as Shadow Finance Minister was supported by; Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality), Anna Adeke (Soroti DWR), Gorethe Namugga (Mawogola South) and Lulume Bayiga (Buikwe South), who described the budget allocation as unsustainable given the huge numbers of parish chiefs in Uganda and the history of government agencies failing to clear their rent arrears in the past.

Muwanga remarked, “We also disagree on the allocation of Shs12.7Bn to facilitate the procurement of bicycles for parish chiefs and rent for their offices. Uganda has a total of 10,595 parishes and thus same number of parish chiefs. If the unit cost of a bicycle is Shs400,000, it will cost the Government Shs4.238Bn to cover all parishes exclusive of maintenance costs.”

He said the amount if approved will leave a balance of Shs8.5Bn which cannot sufficiently cater for rent, utilities and other office requirements.

The Opposition added, “In our observation, the sustainability of the policy for paying rent for parish chiefs is highly questionable considering rent arrears burdening other government agencies. However, we recommend an additional Shs5Bn be added for bicycle and Shs2Bn that is for the PDM Secretariat to cater for office equipment.”

Muwanga also revealed that the Opposition  MPs on the Budget Committee disagreed with their counterparts on the additional allocation of Shs2Bn towards monitoring of wealth funds under the Parish Development Model for secretariat allowances, pointing out that the Ministry of Finance that’s overseeing the PDM already has an allocation of Shs9.2Bn for the same activities, describing the request for more allowances as wasteful expenditure and unjustified.

Kivumbi also used the occasion, to respond to President Museveni’s letter in which he instructed security agencies to arrest but Muwanga and Luttamaguzi Ssemakula (Nakaseke County) for what the President termed decamp signing the PDM, accusing the duo for encouraging locals to eat the PDM cash instead of investing it.

Muwanga said, “There is no letter the President will write to intimidate me with an arrest that will make me go silent on these matters. They wrote to a letter to every single MP where my name was mentioned and Hon. Luttamaguzi Ssemakula and instructed the relevant authorities whenever I talk about these things. But I want to state that no amount of intimidation will make us silent.”

However, Patrick Isiagi, Chairperson Budget Committee defended the recommendation for additional funds to the PDM, asking Ugandans to extend grace to this new baby, saying it will bridge the income inequality in Uganda.

“I would like to wash the doubts, the PDM is a baby, it has just started this FY, it has to go through a learning curve but the expected outcomes are very positive. In the medium term, this is one of the models which is going to save us by reducing the model between the low incomes and high incomes,” said Isiagi.

Despite the calls to the public for patience and trust in Government to manage the PDM efficiently, it should be recalled that the PDM is just one of the cocktail of poverty alleviation projects fronted by the NRM Government starting with; Entandikwa, Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), Poverty Alleviation Plan (PAP), Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA), Wealth for All Programme (Bonna Bagagawale), National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADs) which was later got a new name Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and Emyooga Wealth Fund, yet all of them have been engulfed with reports of mismanagement of funds, corruption, bribery prompting the beneficiaries to mistake the funds as a reward for voting government into power because most of these projects were founded after general elections.

The future doesn’t seem any different for the PDM, with the December 2022 Auditor General’s report indicating that within the first year of its implementation, Shs594.7M had been swindled and remains unaccounted for by various Local Governments through mismanagement of funds, and forgery of academic documents among the parish chiefs meant to oversee the PDM.

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