As seen in Table 2, only 4.5 per cent strongly agreed that the NRM Government had made effort to strengthen its anti-corruption agencies, while 46% felt otherwise.
Investigation and Prosecution of Corruption Cases “…The only way this government can fight corruption is by Confiscation of property of corrupt officers….shorten the time for disposing corruption cases… ” (Female Politician in Mbarara District).
Despite committing to institute a committee to investigate political leaders and senior public officials mentioned in corruption scandals, this audit found that the NRM had not made any progress in that line. In fact, on a number of occasions, the NRM leadership had defended individuals mentioned in corruption scandals as whistle blowers. A case in point was the former Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister who had been profiled by the top NRM leadership as a whistle blower in the 50.2 billion-shilling PRDP scandal, despite being mentioned several times in the Auditor General’s report, and by other OPM officials while appearing before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
This audit also found that while official government records might indicate an increase in number of individuals prosecuted, trends over the same period showed that it was usually the smaller fish whose wings were clipped (Human Rights Watch, 2013), in most cases temporarily, while the major culprits were left at large. In the period under review, while over ten senior NRM officials were implicated in grand corruption scandals, only six found their way to the Anti-corruption Court, while only three were convicted and remanded to Luzira Maximum Prison. The three were later released on intervention of the President who claimed their innocence and pledged to cover the legal fees for one, and campaign for another who had lost his Parliamentary seat on conviction. In the same period, a total of ten grand corruption scandals have been unearthed totalling to a potential loss of 1,551,000,000,000 (One trillion Uganda shillings). These include; the 169Billion Shillings awarded to Basaja balaba (Haba Group) in compensation for a sham market transaction; 205 Billion Identity Card Scandal; 5 Billion Bicycle scandal; the 50.2 Billion PRDP money lost in OPM; 375 Billion Education Ministry money; 400 Billion, Ghost Firms Money in Ministry of Finance; 262 Billion Pension Scandal; 46.8 Billion Quality Chemicals Breach of contract scandal; and 37.9 Billion in Dura Cement compensation scandal (Black Monday Movement, 2013). In all these cases, while senior politicians and government technocrats have been implicated, none or in some cases only a few junior individuals have been brought to book. If the NRM Government is to be taken seriously in fighting corruption, it must translate its zero tolerance to corruption rhetoric into concrete actions.
Employment and Job Creation
In both the Citizens’ and NRM Manifestos, unemployment is highlighted as one of the major challenges facing the country, with an estimated over 2 million literate youths being jobless and a further over 2 million underemployed (GoU, 2013a; MoFPED, 2013). In response to youth unemployment, the NRM Government initiated several job creation schemes with a specific aim of providing them jobs. Some of these schemes include the Youth Capital Venture Fund(YCVF), the Youth Enterprise Capital Fund, the Graduate Venture Capital Scheme and, most recently, the Youth Livelihoods Programme. These schemes are in addition to the youth SACCOs’ which Government has also been rolling out. Government’s response to youth unemployment is pivoted on the NRM-O election promise of creating 1,070,950 jobs for the youth in this five year tenure. While in specific terms, the 2016 NRM-O Election Manifesto outlines interventions including creation of industrial parks, establishment of sugarcane plantations, oil and gas industry development, youth skills training and supporting of MSMEs, the Youth Capital Venture Fund has received more government attention and funding and as such is the central focus for this audit in this section. To date, Government has funded the Youth Capital Venture Fund (YCVF) to a tune of UGX 21 billion and supporting over 5,200 small businesses (GoU, 2013b). A selected number of banks are responsible for disbursing the YCVF money to the youth at a lower interest rate with a grace period of 6 months. However, there have been several concerns over the manner in which the commercial banks are managing the YCVF money.
One of the greatest concerns over this fund has been the fear that some of the youths who access these loans may be arrested for failure to pay.
The other concern has been the fact that commercial banks have over time generated their own list of requirements: including collateral; reduced grace period; ‘O’ Level education certificate, and guarantors, contrary to the list of requirements provided by government. In one of the community consultations in Paliisa District, for instance, a senior technical official observed that “…most of the youths do not have collateral security…. In Bushenyi District a political leader lamented that “…bank interest rates are high with no grace period…”
while the hard-to-reach districts such as Amudat, Nakapiripirit, Bukwo, Kween and Manafwa – districts without banks — cannot access the funds at all. It was also observed that some banks required the youth to present guarantors who are aged 40 years and above, while most of those that could stand as their guarantors were young men and women doing small scale business” (Parliamentary Hansard, Friday, 18 May 2012 ).
Despite the resolution by Parliament to have the requirement of an ‘O’ Level certificate re-moved from the list of requirements, many of the youths interviewed for this audit confirmed that this still remained a key consideration for most banks. In addition, the youth were asked for collateral such as land titles and their guarantors were asked to declare their financial as-sets. In Mbarara District, a political leader described the YCVF as inaccessible and constrain-ing to development of the youth. The general conclusion from this audit is that very few youths have benefited from the YCVF as can be seen from the figure below which shows the percentage of youths who have benefited from the YCVF in the last two and a half years by region.
Despite putting in place schemes geared at creating jobs for the youths, the manner in which these schemes are managed mirrors schism in government planning and delivery of services. These schemes have remained largely uncoordinated, with government taking a back seat as the commercial banks profit from the altered and high interest rates they charge on those ac-cessing the youth funds. The pleasure of making profits rather that the desire to create jobs for the youths has defined the nature of businesses that benefit from such Youth Schemes. Most of these businesses are not in the agricultural sector which employs most youth but rather in service and trade, regardless of the fact that the initial intention of the YCVF was to support youth agricultural projects. With such youth schemes not delivering the promised jobs, the situation of unemployed youths in Uganda has not changed much since the last elections as indicated in Table 3. Government is more interested in the number of businesses and groups supported rather than the quality and number of jobs created by the youth schemes. Hence it is difficult, even for government, to clearly know the number of jobs created by each of the youth schemes.
The situation of youths has not changed much with regard to securing employment. Table 4illustrates that that over 45 per cent of the youth are unemployed regardless of the government and NGO initiatives geared at creating employment for them.
Another 21 per cent of the youth are in unpaid employment, while only 10 per cent are in paid employment and 24 per cent are self-employed. Government approach to job creation needs to be revisited and focus more on creating an enabling environment for investment and enterprise creation, reduce the cost of borrowing, and also improve infrastructure, especially access to and cost of electricity for MSMEs in rural areas.
SACCOs as a poverty alleviation and job creation strategy
“…SACCOs help us to solve emergencies, pay school fees, pay for home obligations…”
As part of its strategy to redeem Ugandans out of poverty, the NRM-O promised to make heavy investments in savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs). By December 2012, membership to SACCOs stood at 1,150,000 (GoU, 2013b) and government had injected over UGX 54 billion in SACCOs by February 2013. The million-dollar question, however, is whether SACCOs are alleviating poverty and creating jobs as promised by the NRM-O government in its 2011 Election Manifesto.
Usage and benefits of SACCOs
As one of the key drivers for poverty alleviation and job creation, government has invested re-sources in the popularisation of SACCOs. It is no wonder that this audit revealed that 61.3 percent of households interviewed were aware of the existence of SACCOs in their sub-county. However, only 40 per cent of the households had knowledge of how SACCOs operated, with27 per cent being registered members of SACCOs. Probably the most central issue is the nature of benefits people get from SACCOs. The benefits define the manner in which people use SACCOs’’ money and people’s utility of SACCOs’. Table 5 indicates the benefits by region.
According to Table 4, it is clear that 43 per cent of the people who got funds from SACCOs invested the money in businesses, whereas, 29 per cent borrowed the SACCO money for other reasons such as paying school fees, organizing weddings, buying household property, among others. The use of SACCOs’ as a strategy to provide finance and alleviate poverty among an impoverished population can prove to be problematic as summed up by one of the participants in a Focus Group Discussion in West Nile
“…SACCOs’ money is used to buy household property, medication, pay school fees and funeral costs.
Whereas, the government intended to use SACCOs to help people finance and grow businesses, progressively SACCOs were turning into an enterprise to finance fortuitous subsistence costs for over 29 per cent of Ugandans. The danger was in how beneficiaries of SACCO loans would pay back. Without clear repayment plans and sources of income, some of the families had mortgaged their property (mostly land) in order to service and repay SACCO loans, leading to increased impoverishment; while others had run away from their homes for fear of SACCOs attaching their properties. While some individuals had explained this phenomenon as resulting from poor knowledge and experience of both the managers of SACCOs and the members of these SACCOs, that was a very simplistic explanation. People knew that SACCO money had to be paid back but they were often between a rock and a hard place and when SACCO money was dangled in their faces.
The Political Factor in SACCOs Formation of SACCOs and disbursement of SACCO funds was also riddled with political influence.
It was noted, for example, that in Pallisa District, the NRM has supported the establishment of SACCOs for NRM sub-county chairpersons and supporters who cross over from other political parties.
Whereas, it is fine for the NRM to support the establishment of SACCOs for its supporters and members –if is uses its party resources – where public resources are used to fund such party initiatives it becomes corruption. It also distorts the intention of SACCOs as individuals begin to construe membership to a SACCO as a direct ticket to access political money. This is often complicated when SACCO money is disbursed during political campaigns; entrenching the perception that it is political money not meant to be returned. The Auditor General’s report of 2019 notes series of political influences in the formation and management of SACCOs including some of the SACCOs that were formed and financed as part of the political campaigns. Indeed many of such SACCOs have been mismanaged and funds embezzled yet there are not mechanisms for recovery. The other challenges with SACCOs include mismanagement of the funds managers, struggles between board members and managers, political leaders’ failure to pay back money borrowed (Auditor General, 2019a). A senior technical official in Nebbi district lamented that
“…there are struggles between, board members who are largely politicians the and managers of SACCOs’…with each party interested in being in charge and use of SACCO money…”
National-level corruption impacting negatively on SACCOs
During an interview a district official noted that, “…With populations hearing of the big sums of money embezzled by leadership; they often do not see any rationale for paying back the borrowed money…this is Etandikwa money”.
Corruption at national level has an effect on SACCOs. There is a tendency for some people to think of SACCO money as government money which they are entitled to without needing to repay, considering that some individuals at national level have also failed to account for public funds. Where as, SACCOs have benefited some individuals especially those who have invested the borrowed money in income-generating activities, it can be said that the majority of the Ugandans who are members of SACCOs have only managed to use them to offset their daily subsistence needs. Individuals who use SACCO money to finance their subsistence needs hardly pay back such money, leading to loss of their collateral in some cases, accentuating poverty and family breakups. There are also mixed messages about SACCOs from government. Whereas, on one hand, government promotes SACCOs as a job-creating and financing mechanism, on the other handsome of the political leaders have used SACCOs to disburse funds to their supporters. This has had implications especially when it comes to paying back the loaned money, with some individuals viewing it as political money meant to reward loyal supporters. The structures for supporting SACCOs are not integrated with the local governance and service delivery apparatus, making the process of supervision and follow-up sometimes difficult.
Environment, Natural and Shared Resource Management
“…district by-laws punish the poor and not the rich who continue to degrade the environment…we must put in place a system that brings the real environment abusers to book… ”
On environment, Citizens made four key demands in their Manifesto: the prioritization of investment in the recovery and restoration of degraded ecosystems, especially wetlands and the protected forest estate; setting standards to deal with environmental governance; compliance and law enforcement; and, investment in a land reform process that builds the foundation for development and transformation (UGMP, 2010).Conversely, the NRM made two key promises: to restore degraded ecosystems as a strategy for disaster risk control and improved livelihoods including provision of tree seedlings through both public and private schemes to plant at least 200,000,000 trees annually equivalent to 180,000 ha; and then, boundary demarcation and gazetting of critical wetlands and given strict protection: Nakivubo, Kinawataka, Lubigi, Kansanga, Kyetinda, Nyanama-Lufuka,Mpologoma, Mayanja, Katonga, Kakyera, Teso wetland system (Agu, Awoja, Abuket, Kodike),and Okole-Arocha in Lango. Over the past two and a half years, Government and NGOs have initiated tree-planting drives in the country with the National Forest Authority (NFA) taking lead.
Between 2011 and 2013 NFA planted 1,897.8 ha of new forest plantations in North Rwenzori CFR, Katugo-Kasagala CFR, Rwoho and Bugamba CFR in Mbarara, Mafuga plantation in Kabale, and Lendu CFR(MWE, 2012). The National Tree Seed Centre and the regional nurseries of NFA produced at least 5,534,560 seedlings. Efforts have been made to restore forests and protect water catchment areas especially river banks and hilly landscapes through mobilizing forest encroachers to vacate forest reserves for example; Bugoma in Hoima, Kisombwa in Mubende, Mubuku in Kasese and other Central Forest Reserves. Relatedly, 281 hectares of degraded/formerly encroached forests were restored in Mityana and Lake Shore range. Despite the positive steps taken above, major gaps still exist in the management and governance of the environment in Uganda. For example, in 2011 Yoweri Museveni, amidst serious resistance, revived the discussions to parcel over 7,100 ha from Mabira Forest for sugar production by Mehta Group of Companies. Environmental experts have warned that if this plan ever succeeds, Uganda risks losing over 300 bird species that inhabit this central reserve forest. This would not only affect the environment but rather Uganda’s earnings from tourists that flock the forest for bird viewing. The continued use of firewood and charcoal as major sources energy in the country has remained a threat to the environment. In some areas it is argued that the growth in the population is also leading to degradation with limited interventions from the government. Recently, in the Mount Elgon region, the increase in population resulted into landslides killing and displacing hundreds of Ugandans.
Encroachment on wetlands
Encroachment on wetlands is increasing at an alarming rate across the country with little being done to protect such important ecosystems, especially in the countryside. While some efforts have been put in place to save some of the wetlands in urban areas, there are no similar initiatives to save wetlands in rural areas (Parliament of Uganda, 2012). Protection of wetlands is even made difficult by some of the laws of Uganda. For example, Under Article 237 (2) (b) of the Constitution, government has an obligation, among other things, to protect and preserve wetlands which it holds in trust for the people of Uganda. However, under the Registration of Titles Act the Commissioner for Land is allowed to issue titles to citizens who own land even in wetland lands. As such, regardless of the National Environment Management Act protecting the wetlands, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Uganda Land Commission and District Land Boards have continued to issue land titles to developers in wetlands.
Selective Application of the Law affecting Environmental Management
The environment sector also faces other challenges including selective application of the law. It is common for government agencies to punish the poor and less politically connected populations whenever they degrade the environment, yet the powerful and politically connected persons are instead facilitated to engage in numerous environmental abuses. The most recent example recorded during this audit is the degradation of the Lutembe Beach in Wakiso District by Rosebud, a flower growing company. In one of the community consultations in West Nile, citizens pointed out that the activities of Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho (Salim Saleh)on Barifa Forest Reserve were also causing serious environmental threats, to the country, yet without any mitigation measures in place. In Bunyoro sub-region, residents also expressed concern over the activities of oil exploration companies which were not putting in place convincing measures to deal with the environmental hazards that come with their engagements.
“…we get water from the lakes and rivers…but the problem with that water is bilharzias and worms…” (Woman from Nebbi District during an FGD).
On water and sanitation, the overwhelming demand by citizens was increased investments and supervision in the provision of quality water services countrywide. In its manifesto, the NRM committed to increase access to safe and clean water in rural areas within a radius of 1km from the then 65 per cent to 100 per cent by the year 2020 (NRM, 2016).During this Audit, we found that access to tap water, especially in urban and peri-centres, had relatively increased. For the urban areas, access to safe water increased from 66 per cent, with-in 0.2km which was reported in 2016, to 69 per cent. However, in rural areas, the main source of water remains unprotected and protected wells and springs, river streams, and boreholes. In some of the districts, accessing clean water is a nightmare as people rely on unprotected and contaminated wells as their main water sources, with an access distance ranging from 0.5 to3 kilometres. We noted that access to safe water within one km in the rural areas was 64 percent (which was a slight decline from the 65 per cent reported in 2020).This Audit also found that there was lack of a coherent regulation and monitoring framework for water and sewerage services, especially in implementation of the pro-poor strategy in urban areas. In addition, access to household latrine coverage in the rural areas has remained at approximately 70 per cent over the previous two years, while access to hand washing has increased from 24 per cent to 27 per cent in the rural areas, and 85 per cent for urban areas (MWE, 2020).While official government documents record that government constructed piped water supply countrywide, this Audit found that households with access to piped water were only 18per cent, with the majority of the households (40 per cent) relying on boreholes as the main source of water as indicated in Table 6.
Whereas, the main source of water for most of the households has remained the borehole; in some of the districts, especially in the Karamoja and West Nile, people still fetch drinking water from rivers, lakes and dams. Nevertheless, the distance to the source of water has greatly improved as indicated by the chart below. Most of the households get water from sources that are less than half a kilometre away from their homes.