By Mary Karugaba
The sh1b presidential pledge meant to compensate Owino market fire victims was diverted and turned into a loan, MPs have heard.
Documents presented to the public accounts committee indicated that while the President directed that the Ministry of Finance releases sh1b as compensation towards the victims of the fire, the money was instead given to the Parkyard Market SACCO as a loan.
In April, 2009, President Museveni wrote to the then Minister of Finance, Syda Bbumba, to process the money and give it to the beneficiaries.
“This is to formally communicate my directive to you to process the release of sh1b as compensation towards the victims of the fire inferno at Owino Market that occurred on Feb, 25, 2009,” the President said.
The MPs were stunned that the Ministry of Finance letter instructed the Microfinance Support Centre to loan the money out to Parkyard SACCO. A total of sh364m has so far been recovered.
“At what point did this money change from a compensation pledge to a loan? Does the President know this?” committee chairman Kassiano Wadri asked.
This was during a committee meeting with officials from Microfinance Centre Ltd and Ministry of Finance headed by the deputy secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi. The officials were appearing before the committee to answer queries by the Auditor General.
“There are so many SACCOs in Owino Market and the money was meant for everyone who was affected not members of the SACCOs. Who gave it to Park Yard market? Committee deputy chairman Paul Mwiru asked Muhakanizi to explain.