You were awarded recently for excellent service by the office of the Prime Minister. Why do you deserve this award?
The award was given to me as the then Permanent Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister for spearheading the following programmes in the Office of the Prime Minister among others:
The Annual Government Performance Review Mechanisms which is about increasing efficient utilization of public resources and making Government institutions more responsive and accountable. Funds must be linked to outputs and outcomes through Traffic Light System.
This is the same innovation that the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) invited me to make a presentation at the High Level Panel Forum in New York in April 2013.
The Peace Recovery and Development Plan conceived by H.E. the President and it guided the Coordination of the Interventions in Northern Uganda since 2009. We collected Work Plans from Districts with clear Outputs, Performance Indicators, Timeframe and cost implications. This Plan has managed to bridge the socio-economic gap between North and other the rest of the country. This Plan was successfully implemented; save for the fraud which was originated from Treasury over the additional funds that had been contributed by Development Partners.
The Second Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF2) which was also guided by H.E. the President. We negotiated the Project with the World Bank and mainstreamed the project into the Government Systems as opposed to a standalone project. This project has been regarded as one of the best performing projects in the country in terms of Absorption, Transparency and Accountability.
President Museveni last week described you as a “pumpkin seed” that can germinate even in dry areas. Many regard this as a clear statement of favouritism from him and that you are a special one.
I don’t think that H.E. the President making that statement was favouritism. I believe he made the statement sincerely and honestly out of conviction.
The President has eyes, ears and has all the intelligence machinery to give him accurate information. It is important to note that in Africa and Uganda in Particular, may people spend a lot of time in speculation, loose talk (wolokoso) instead of working hard.
For example, many of our public servants spend most of the time in routine work without adding value in what they do. There is serious need for innovation and creativity if we have to push this country to greater heights. Actions speak better than words.
May be my actions convinced him to make the statement that he made.
You were the PS at office of the Prime Minister and some of your key duties and tasks included ensuring that no funds were lost. But then we saw billions lost. Recently you were placed in charge of in charge of more billions of money meant for the youth. What lessons did you learn at the OPM to make sure that the country doesn't get to another loss?
Indeed my key duties and tasks included ensuring that no funds are lost. This I have never denied at any one time. However, it is important to note that in the Auditor General’s Forensic Audit Report that there was fraudulent assigning of some of the responsibilities of the Accounting Officer hence alienating me from the role I was supposed to perform. Interdicted Principle Accountant Geoffrey Kazinda (who is now serving a prison sentence and has more cases in court) became a pseudo Accounting Officer validating payments with the knowledge of Treasury.
Secondly, and this was proved beyond reasonable doubt that Kazinda forged my signature and this enabled him to present forged Security Documents to Bank of Uganda which were used to effect payments without reference to me.
The lessons learnt from the OPM is that there has been a syndicate of fraudsters between Ministries, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic development and Bank of Uganda.
It is clear from the fraud that Treasury Department was the epicentre of the fraud and I believe that is also true with some other frauds that have and continue to be unearthed in Ministries and Departments after I blew the whistle demanding for Forensic Audit in OPM and other Ministries.
As a result of my whistle blowing a number of reforms have been instituted by Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. I must state that I acted like a fire brigade officer on a burning house.
How would you rate the Government effort in the fight against corruption?
The Government has put in place measures to fight corruption. For example, there are institutions which have been put in place to fight corruption like, PAC, IGG, DPP, CIID, Ethics and Integrity office etc.
However, a number of times efforts to fight corruption are frustrated by lack of committed officers to do the job. Many of them get compromised and others are outright cowards. My recent experience in the OPM has given me learning lessons which might inform next steps.
There is a lot of professional misconduct which is coupled with incompetent and a number of times ignorant officers who don’t understand Government Systems. This is made worse by the public who compromise the officers through bribery.
If today you were appointed and tasked with fighting corruption how differently would you act?
I don’t have to be appointed to fight corruption. Nobody asked me to declare war on corruption by blowing the whistle. I think it is the duty of every citizen to fight corruption.
Many people should gather the courage and blow more whistles so that we can fight this vice which has engulfed our society. If we don’t fight now, history and future generations will judge us very harshly.
How best can the youths benefit from the fund under your docket? What is the criteria of application and who qualifies?
The criteria of applications are contained in the Programme Document which will be distributed to all Districts and Sub-counties in this month of February. The Programme Document can also be found on the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development website at www.mglsd.go.ug. The Ministry is going to distribute guidelines for Application, Procurement, Monitoring and Evaluation etc.
What is the criteria of application and who qualifies?
The Programme design provides that every interested group of Youth will have to express their interest in participating in the Programme by filling the Project Interest Form (one-page) that will be available at the Sub-county level. This form simply captures the wish of the Youth, their location and contacts for follow-up.
The Sub-county beneficiary selection committee, chaired by the Sub-county Chief (other members include CDO, Sub-county Youth Chairperson and the LCI of the area that Youth who have expressed interest reside), using the contacts provided by the Youth in the Interest Form, will organize community meetings involving the Youth concerned and the wider community where they leave.
This process shall take place at the community level.
The purpose of such meetings is to select beneficiaries and facilitate them in prioritizing and preparing a fundable Project Proposal (Application Form).
It is important to note that the Interest Form and Application Form will be free-of-charge and that the Youth need not hire any persons to prepare the Proposals, since the Sub-county Technical Staff will facilitate the process.
All unemployed and poor Youth (18-30 Years, educated or un-educated, nationals resident in the country.
There are claims of long bureaucracies involved in the applications process.
There will not be long bureaucracies. The Technical Support Team has completed simple generic forms to be used in the Application. The Sub-county Teams will appraise the Applications and submit them to the CAO’s who should submit them to MGLSD for funding. All the stages are time bound and clearly highlighted in the Programme Document.
There are also claims that this money may not be put to good use. Have you trained the youths? How will you monitor the projects?
The claims that the money will not be put to good use is mere speculation. We can’t say that the Programme will not meet challenges but they are not insurmountable. We have put in place systems that will enable us to quickly detect malpractices and we shall quickly fix them like we did in NUSAF2 under the OPM.
Programme Management believes that the success of the Programme will depend much on how well the foundation is set and how the implementation processes are managed. Putting the funds to good use will therefore be a function of proper beneficiary targeting and selection, proper enterprise selection, proper technical support and guidance to beneficiaries, adequate monitoring at all levels, peer pressure within the groups and the mind-set of the beneficiaries.
Have you trained the Youth?
The Youth are being trained using the 20% of the fund under the Skills Development component.
During beneficiary selection and enterprise selection at the community, the entire community and the selected youth will receive sensitization on the Programme.
Just after approval and before disbursement of the funds to the community account (training will include basic financial management, community procurement, record keeping, transparency and accountability, group dynamics etc….
Trainings during implementation (training will include projects specific skills, entrepreneurship and business skills, life skills and personal finance)
Some of the training will be formal and others will be through appraintship.
We have recruited Monitoring and Evaluation Officers together with other stakeholders like IGG and President’s Office at the Districts will monitor implementation through our Monitoring and Evaluation System. We are putting in place Geographical Information System (GIS) and using Mapping Skills we shall be able to track performance of the Projects. This will enable us account to all stakeholders using Information Technology methods. You can access information on progress of implementation wherever you may be without visiting the Districts. But you can also visit the projects to confirm on the Ground what is on the Internet.
Other Monitoring mechanisms will include:
• Community Score Cards and Citizen Report Cards,
• Bi-annual Internal Audits by MGLSD
• Regional and National Reviews
• Barazas (OPM)
What happens when a youth group defaults?
I don’t want to be a prophet of doom, because some of us have Abundancy Mentality. However, in case the youth default mechanisms of recovery contained in the Programme Document and the Memorandum of Understanding which the Youth
will sign will be invoked.
The Programme, is putting effort to minimize default through the processes highlighted above. But in the inevitable event that it occurs the following will be done:
• Establish the extent of default
• Establish the cause of default
• If the reasons for default are genuine, establish whether it will be helpful to reschedule the repayment.
• In case the reasons for default are not genuine, invoke the guidelines on the roles of the co-guarantors that make them individually and severally liable.
• Invoke the provision on rewards and penalties in the Programme Document and Financing Agreement
• As a last resort, involve the law enforcement arms of Government to recover the funds.
This same Government has come up with different schemes to help uplift Ugandans from poverty but have failed, what makes the one being implemented by your ministry unique?
It is true Government has come up with different schemes before, but this Programme is quite different from the previous because of the modality. The Youth Livelihood Programme is Community Demand Driven Programme, a bottom-up approach as opposed to the previous modalities.
Secondly, the Programme doesn’t require collateral security as was the case in previous programmes. It only requires a recommendation from a Credible Prominent Personality in the Community and the Youth Interest Groups will guarantee each other.
Third, is that the fund is a revolving fund with no interest, if payment is made in the first year. Any payment made after one year will attract a 5% fee to cater for inflation. However, each group will be expected to make all payments within 3 years of receiving the funds.
Fourth, is that the Youth Livelihood Programme emphasizes asset acquisition unlike some of the previous programmes that were paying cash. Realizing that there are many risks associated with cash, the Ministry has decided to limit cash payments.
Fifth, is that the method of selection of Beneficiary Youth Interest Groups is more transparent right from the Local Areas. This is opposite to the previous programmes where individuals would go and access funds as long as they had corrateral security and; yet a small percentage of the Youth could produce the required security.
From the a foregoing therefore, it is evident that there is a conceptual clarity of the programme and this is being disseminated to the Youth. We are optimistic that we shall succeed because we have the will and passion to support the Youth in wealth creation through sustainable production.
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Museveni referring to me as a “pumpkin seed” that can germinate even in dry areas was not favouritism- Bigirimana