SOROTI – Police in East Kyoga region have launched investigations into the circumstances under which another batch of 49 boxes of government hand hoes worth a tune of Shs 11,760,000 were stolen at Soroti City.
The boxes are part of 1157 boxes of hoes Soroti City received from National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) secretariat on the 10th June, 2021, meant to be distributed to farmers under (NAADS) government program.
In a police statement issued by East Kyoga police regional spokesperson Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ageca Oscar Gregory; when the police learnt of the incident, a team of other detectives led by the District Police Commander (DPC) rushed to the scene and the boxes of hoes were re-counted with a view of establishing and confirming the allegations.
Ageca said when the police counted the boxes, they found out that the said 49 boxes of hand hoes were missing without the doors to the store being broken.
He added that a general Inquiry File Number 15/2021 to investigate circumstances under which the 49 boxes of hand hoes were stolen has been opened at Soroti Central Police station.
According to AIP Ageca, the police preliminary investigations indicate that the theft of 49 boxes were reportedly stolen on Wednesday, the 14th July, 2021 from Soroti City Council stores located at the finance department.
This is the second time hand hoes have been stolen in Soroti City.
On June, the 24th 2021, a total of 101 boxes containing 20,000 hoes worth Shs 20M were stolen from the same institution and 14 officials were arrested.
Those who were arrested included among others; the police officers deployed to guard the City offices, the Staff in Finance Department with access to the office keys, Records Officer Olum Michael, Office attendant Edopa Martin, Office Supervisor Okwango Stephen.
Others are Inventory Officers Engole Emmanuel, Dr. Odokorach Isaiah a Senior Veterinary Officer, Planner Iteba Andrew, Auditors Aremu Samuel and Takan Joyce.
They were remanded to Nakatunya Government Prison for two weeks before being granted a cash bail on July, 2nd, 2021.
The President of Soroti City Development Forum, Egoriait Dan condemned the incident describing it as shame to the new city.
“I’m not pleased with actions of the officials who decided to take what was meant to benefit the peasantry,” said Egoriait.
Edogu Joshua, the Soroti City Mayor wondered why top city ranking officials could steal the hoes meant to benefit the local people.
“No ordinary thief can steal 150 boxes. This one is an organized group of people in leadership and they must pay for what they have done,” said Edogu.
Meanwhile, Ochen Ambrose, the new Soroti City Clerk vowed to deal with the corrupt officials and noted the affected officers must pay for what they have taken.
“I am not going to look at the people stealing what is meant for the local people and you go that free. I will write to the Permanent Secretary to have you sanctioned or even dismissed,” said Ochen.
“Stealing happens when there is something to be stolen or a bad man with intentions of stealing, I am just imagining hoes procured for our people and then somebody hatches a plan to change ownership. I think that should be the last thing to be heard in the City. A hoe of all things?” Wondered Ochen.
“It’s bad and shouldn’t be accepted in the city. If the hoes were stolen, how sure are we with the vehicles and other assets,” he asked.
Background of hand hoe distribution.
The Government this month launched the distribution of over 2.5 million hoes to smallholder farmers.
The exercise is part of President Yoweri Museveni’s 2015 pledge to provide eighteen million hoes to six million households to boost food production, food security and incomes for small landowners in Uganda, who may not have access to farm machinery.
A total of 420,000 hoes were procured and distributed in the financial year 2016/17 and another 800,000 in 2018/19.
Under the 2020/21 budget, Parliament appropriated Shs 30b for the procurement of 2,500,000 hoes, and the distribution is underway.
The program is being spearheaded by NAADS. So far, the exercise has been completed in Karamoja sub-region and is underway in West Nile and Teso Sub-Region, according to Khadija Nakakande, the head of communication and public relations at NAADS.
“Our targets are the vulnerable households in rural areas that have low access to farm inputs. We expect them to use the hoes mainly to grow food for consumption, but gradually move into commercial production,” Nakakande explained.
Initially, one hoe was distributed to each household, but the number was later increased to two.
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