I wish to throw some light on press reports that an NGO fronted by State House conned boda-boda cyclists. The story created an impression that State House or myself was involved in conning the cyclists.
On January 26, 2001, while coming from Kololo Airstrip, President Museveni was escorted by boda-bodas, who demanded to see him and later in the day, he met them at the Conference Centre. Their leaders told him that most of them did not own the motorbikes they rode and wanted help to get their own bikes.
The president promised them government assistance and asked Hon. Mondo Kagonyera, the minister in charge of general duties under the Office of the Prime Minister to follow it up.
In 2002 the boda-boda leaders came to my office complaining that they had not got the motorbikes the president promised them.
I contacted Kagonyera, who organised a meeting with officials from the Micro-Finance Support Centre and Henry Bagazonzya, who was later charged with following up the matter.
Following that meeting,, I asked the boda-boda leaders to get in touch with Bagazonzya. They met him and worked out a project where the cyclists were to contribute sh200,000 and the micro-finance would top it up. I asked Bagazonzya to ensure the daily payments were not more than what the cyclists earned daily, that is, sh7,000.
The Micro-Finance Support Centre selected UMEA, through which they channelled a sh170m loan for onward lending to the boda-bodas. At that time sh170m could buy 100 motorbikes. Micro-Finance Support Centre was already dealing with UMEA in Owino Market.
Before lending to any micro-finance institution, Micro Finance Support Centre assesses the borrowers and monitors them throughout the loan period. This project was launched by the president in June 2002 at the Conference Centre.
I am happy to note that the boda-bodas paid back all the money and now those who benefited own motorbikes. The problem came when UMEA received the money from the cyclists and never paid it back to Micro-Finance Support Centre.
Of course, Micro-Finance Support Centre was responsible to monitor UMEA like all financial institutions do when they lend out money and if UMEA failed to pay back, there is no way Byaruhanga or State House could be held responsible after all the cyclists paid back.
How did Wakiso come in? After the Kampala project, I received a lot of requests. Rosemary Seninde, the woman MP for Wakiso, like many others, wanted the same project in her area. I told her it was organised through UMEA. She organised a meeting with UMEA and myself at Wakiso district headquarters.
We briefed them on the procedures the Kampala group had followed. I later learnt through Seninde that, days after that meeting,, UMEA collected money from the cyclists and promised to top up for each person and give them motorbikes on credit like they had done in Kampala. However, this was never done and the cyclists demanded their money back. I called the UMEA leaders to find out why they were not refunding the cyclistsâ€™ money and they told me they had done so.
They even gave me a list of the people they claimed they had refunded the money. I passed on the list to Seninde, who later told me the list was fake. I advised her that was a police case, since I had no powers over UMEA. Later when the president learnt of this fracas, he promised to refund the money UMEA collected from Wakiso boda-bodas and asked the Police to charge UMEA officials.
Whoever is dragging my name and the image of State House into this saga should know the above facts before they make judgments. My interest has been to help poor people out of poverty and I have organised many boda-bodas elsewhere to get loans. For example, Kibaale district has so far got 180 motorbikes.
I organised this project with MP Kabonesa and Kirumira of M/S Baggery, a company that imports motorbikes. I have also organised the same in Hoima where we have given out 40 motorbikes through the same company.
Through Commercial Micro-Finance Ltd, which is supervised by Bank of Uganda, over 150 motorbikes have been given out in Kampala alone and we are working out a method of going outside Kampala as the demand is overwhelming. We are trying a similar project for special hire drivers to be assisted to buy vehicles on credit and pay back in three years.
The writer is the presidential political assistant
State House had no hand in the boda-boda saga