By Moses Walubiri
The sh40b so far spent on the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (BIPID) might turn out to be "a waste to the tax payers" if nothing is done to refocus the project, the Auditor General has warned.
In his value for money audit for the financial year ending June 2013, the Auditor General raises a number of accountability flaws and problems of a technical nature that have seen the project shelf life extended by five more years, without guarantee that the intended objectives would be realized after expiry of the extension.
For example, the Auditor General noted that activities aimed at capacity building of rural farmers in new technologies and agronomic practices at sh2b was either incomplete or not done at all at the time of audit.
The audit team also noted that sh676m meant for training farmers' groups, training of trainers and establishment of community drying centers was spent, yet the activities were never executed.
In an interface with the Public Accounts of parliament Thursday, BIPID Executive Director Dr. Florence Muranga admitted that the project that started in 2005 was implemented without carrying out a feasibility study - something that runs counter to best practices in project management.
"The manner in which the project was conceived, it was difficult to carry out a feasibility study," Muranga said, denying insinuations by legislators that the many huddles that have so far impeded the project are a result of this "anomaly."
Muranga was also made to explain why BIPID committed government to carry out survey at sh385m on a piece of land in Sanga, Kiruhura district that it didn't own.
A brain child of President Yoweri Museveni, BIPID was aimed at kick-starting state-of-the -art banana processing enterprises, targeting rural farmers, in order to improve value addition to bananas, raise income opportunities and expand market access for banana growers and entrepreneurs.
The project was initially meant to be executed within five years at sh23b, but its latest extension ends in 2015.