GULU – Gulu District Local Government (GDLG) has subjected all implementation of the different projects under the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) to investigations.
The implementation of the third phase of the program was a five-year World Bank funded project being implemented in the 66 districts across Northern Uganda which ended in June this year.
The program was launched in the early 2000 to help the districts across the region catch up with the rest of Uganda which then in the late 1990 enjoyed economic growth rates between 5 to 7 percent.
The different interventions aimed at fighting poverty using a combination of four factors by building the infrastructures, income generating activities, conflict management and institutional development.
However, NUSAF suffered a tainted image as a result of allegations of corruption where the government officials and the service providers were accused of embezzlement and doing sub-standard work.
With widespread complaints of accountability, the government was skeptical whether to continue with the program but Soroti’s success story became a guarantee for the second and the third phases.
At least 1,795 different projects in the implementing districts of the third phase of the program were targeted in 71,161 households according to the 2020 report by Operation Wealth Creation (OWC).
Gulu District, among other implementing districts, received Shs 9.6 billion for a total of 343 different projects reportedly implemented in the district from 2016 to June 2021.
However, as the program phased off a month ago, some of the projects which received funding had stalled and this drew concerns from the new district leaders.
Among the projects is the community access road of Shs 58 million of Rwot Obilo Health Centre III to Atiaba village and the institutional greening at Zion Nursery and Primary School worth Shs 22.1 million.
With various reports of alleged mismanagement of funds and shoddy work, the District Executive Committee (DEC) recently summoned the technocrats to respond to these allegations.
The Engineering team which was then assigned with the task of approval of the technical works in the implementation of the projects denied the approval of some of the projects but failed to name them.
Opio Ateker Christopher, the District Chairman instructed the Internal Auditor and Chief Finance Officer (CFO) to produce the audit report of the different projects, a matter that was protested by the technocrats.
Okech Goretti, the Community Development Officer (CDO) who doubles as the focal point person says the new projects had achieved their intended objectives and that there was no need for the investigations.
However, at Zion Nursery and Primary School, the fund meant for the institutional greening was diverted to fencing of the school, tree planting with a smaller portion of the compound beautified with flowers.
Okot Peter, the Chairperson Zion Nursery and Primary School Institutional Greening Project told theCooperator in an interview that the diversion of the project followed pressure from the technocrats.
Though he declined to provide more details, Opige Samuel, the secretary of the group revealed that the diversion had reduced the wage allowance of the group members.
He explained that each of the 68 members was to get Shs 82,000 paid at the end of the project but ended up with only Shs 56,000 while 15 percent was remitted to the bank as their revolving fund.
Okia Collin, the Local Councilor II of Atyaba Parish in Bungatira sub-county commended the district leaders for instituting the investigations.
He revealed that Shs 16 million of the funds were meant for the wage allowances which was reduced to less than Shs 6 million, the variation he says needs audit and investigations.
Ongwech Balington P’ Olweny, the Gulu District Secretary Community Services blamed the incident on lack of coordination between the technocrats and the elected leaders.
“There was inflation of budgets and you could clearly see that money has gone into the wrong hands” Olweny alleged.
Preliminary investigations amounted to the arrest of two technocrats in the district and three other group members whose identities were not disclosed.
Twongyeirwe Justus, the Officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Gulu Central Police Station confirmed the arrest but declined to name the suspects.
He noted that the police were yet to open up a general inquiry file to commence the investigations of the alleged mismanagement of funds and corruption into the projects.
The third phase of NUSAF’s implementation was placed directly to contribute to the World Bank strategy of reducing poverty and to share prosperity in the northern districts.
The funds were divided into the four major components of labor-intensive public works and disaster risk financing which was allocated $ 61 million, livelihood investment support of $ 43.50 Million, Safe net mechanisms and project management $ 20.50 million, strengthening of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption was allocated $ 5 million.
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