17 August 2016

Agriculture officials accused of fraud


Several government officials have been implictated in fraud, especially in the supply chain, following an operation launched by Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) in the Rwenzori sub-region.

The 11-day operation code-named; “Fagia Uwizi”, loosely translated as ‘flash out the thieves’, aims at weeding out the mess in the project.
“The President is tired of spending money that ends in people’s pockets, leaving no impact on the ground. We shall not leave any stone unturned this time, but we have a major challenge of political interference instead of being monitors for government programmes,” the OWC head of communications, Ms Sarah Kagingo, said on Monday.

So far, police in Kasese District are holding one suspect on charges of theft while the OWC team is investigating financial loss, impersonation and forgery, among others.

When contacted, the Kasese municipality officer in-charge of criminal investigations, Mr Ibra Batasi, said details of the matter were to be revealed later when investigations are complete.

“It is true we have arrested the UCDA [Uganda Coffee Development Authority] official, but I only have two statements of the suspect and of the complainants meaning that the information we have is not complete,” he said. Other officials implicated include sub-county chiefs, auditors who are accused of forging lists of beneficiaries and signatures of the OWC coordinators.

Documents seen by Daily Monitor show the district internal auditor having verified a list of coffee supplied to Rukooki Sub-county that had, among others, a signature of the OWC coordinator, Lt Col Medhi K Baguma, which Ms Kagingo and team said was forged.

Government released Shs4 million coffee seedlings to Kasese between July and November 2015 season and Shs6.9m coffee seedlings from March to May, but the operation team has not found the coffee trees.

“It is unbelievable that UCDA officials have been creating ghost nursery bed operators and farmers and government has been spending money on non-existent people,” Ms Kagingo said.

The same UCDA official also forged a supply to three nursery operators in Muhokya Sub-county where he purportedly supplied 135,000 coffee seedlings but were not traced.

“I have gone to the field to find out the said nursery operators in the report but I have found none on ground apart from Peter Thembo of Kilembe Sub-county who supplied 100,000 seedlings, yet we are mandated to witness the distribution and operations of nursery operators,” Lt Col Baguma said.

In Kabarole District, Fagia Uwizi found that UCDA did not supply good quality seedlings to farmers.

“We have discovered coffee seedlings were demanded but were not supplied to the people instead were dumped in some areas in Isunga zone, Kasenda Sub-county,” she said.

Ms Florence Musiime, a resident of Isunga, said the seedlings were brought in mid-June when there was too much sunshine and farmers were not prepared because the season was over and there was no rain.

The OWC was established by President Museveni in July 2013 to eradicate poverty and facilitate growth of households’ income, mainly through agriculture.


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