By Raymond Baguma
Donors have resumed funding to the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) following reassurance that measures have been put in place to avoid mistakes in which the leaders were implicated in abuse of office.
This comes after the former general secretary Richard Nataka was last year sacked from URCS after Police and Uganda Revenue Authority recovered smuggled goods from his home in Munyonyo. A probe later led to the dissolving of the entire board of directors of URCS.
On Tuesday, Ken Odur, the agency’s interim secretary general said following the scandals that hit the humanitarian agency, in October last year donors halted their support which affected some new projects that were slated to begin.
Odur said at the time of suspension of donor support, there were ongoing projects for which funds had been released, while commitment for funding had been made for other projects.
“New projects were most affected,” Odur said in an interview on Monday. Some of the affected projects included a US$2.5 million Norwegian government-funded project as well as another one supported by the United States Government on disaster risk reduction in urban areas.
According to Odur, donors provide 90 percent of revenues to support URCS. The URCS has 364,000 members who include volunteers and staff, making it the leading humanitarian agency in Uganda.
“But the volunteers continued to work as if nothing had happened. For the contractors, we assured them that we would do everything possible that there would be resumption of funding,” added Odur.
“Over the last couple of months, we have demonstrated to our donors the steps taken. And by the end of March, they (donors) stated that they would resume funding of our activities,” Odur said.
He said that donors have resumed partial funding to cover fixed costs which include staff salaries. Full funding will be restored when a forensic audit is completed and a report issued next month (May).
Odur said that the agency has implemented reforms set by donors, which culminated into the resumption of funding. The conditions include putting in place accountability mechanisms some of which include regular board meetings, and timely submission of monthly reports as opposed to quarterly reports.
On Tuesday, the Chinese Red Cross Society donated an assortment of equipment to their Ugandan counterparts. The equipment valued at sh1.8 billion included desktop computers, laptops, power backup systems, photocopiers, fax machines, printers, water pumps, blankets and towels.
Present at the handover of the equipment was the minister of disaster preparedness Hillary Onek, and Zhao Yali the Chinese ambassador to Uganda.
The donation is in line with an existing cooperation agreement between the Uganda Red Cross Society and the Chinese Red Cross. The equipment will be delivered to the 51 branches of the URCS countrywide.
A memorandum of understanding was signed on 15th May 2013 in which China undertook to support URCS for three years in disaster risk reduction, community resilience, first aid, water and sanitation, improving livelihoods and capacity building.
Ambassador Yali advised the equipment be used for its intended purpose to build capacity and enhance effectiveness in delivering humanitarian services to needy communities. The ambassador said every year China provides short-term training opportunities to URCS officials to support capacity building.
Minister Onek said the past mistakes by URCS management had eroded the donors’ confidence. However the Chinese donation is a sign of the regained confidence.