Authorities in Nebbi Municipality are engaged in a struggle with women groups in Nebbi municipality to recover funds that the government of Uganda distributed under Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP).
The UWEP program was launched in 2016 by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development with its stated aim being to “improve women’s access to financial services, equip them with the skills for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing of their products and services.”
Under the program, women, organized in groups, “are availed with interest-free revolving credit to initiate or strengthen their enterprises.”
However, according to Nebbi municipal Focal Point Officer for UWEP, Moses Kerchan Onega, out of Shs 187m of the program’s funds that were remitted to different groups’ accounts in Nebbi Municipality, only Shs 65m has been recovered so far.
Kerchan says that 97% of UWEP groups failed to remit their money to the recovery account “due to the poor mindsets of group members who mistook UWEP funds to be political cash”.
He further noted that some group leaders had made off with program funds, citing an incident where a group chairperson of Mic-Pamungu UWEP women group in Ajoganyayobodho village disappeared with over Shs 2m of the group’s cash.
“The Municipality has registered two cases of groups’ money under the UWEP program being stolen by group leaders and filed these cases with the police,” Kerchan said.
Meanwhile, Beatrice Kintho, Chairperson of Kwolonyo UWEP group appealed to government to increase the amount of funding given to groups, saying the current amounts are too meagre to support businesses that require large capital.
”In 2017 our group got Shs5m to run the produce business in Nebbi main market, but the money proved too little to run the enterprise. This calls for additional funds,” Kintho said.
Responding to members’ requests for increased funding, Frank Mugabe, the Public Relations Officer of UWEP, revealed that “hardworking groups” with enterprises employing at least 5% youths will have their funding increased to Shs 20m.
“The ministry is committed in increasing funds to the active groups that are ready to provide employment to youths in order to bridge the unemployment gaps in the country,” he said.
Mugabe also admitted that the program has encountered a number of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for groups involved in non-food businesses.
He noted that recovery of UWEP’s funds countrywide has dropped by 30% during the post-COVID era.
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