By Nelson Mandela Muhoozi
The Speaker, Anita Among, on Thursday, September 7, 2023, directed the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to conduct an independent investigation into the utilisation of sh1.9b allocated for ‘coffee consumption’.
“We want to know who disbursed that money and who benefitted from it. We need that money and the person who benefitted from it must bear the liability,” she said during the plenary sitting.
It is premised on a report by the Public Accounts Committee (Central Government) on concerns raised by the Auditor General for Financial Year 2021/2022, on 15 MDAs.
The report presented by Committee Chairperson, Medard Sseggona, indicates that as part of the NUSAF-III programme, OPM signed a two-year memorandum of understanding with M/S Inspire Africa Uganda Limited as a capacity-building partner.
The programme which ran from May 16, 2017, to May 15, 2019, was extended for another two years up to March 31, 2021, a period in which Inspire Africa was allocated sh9.66b for its activities.
“The Committee takes exception that sh9.66b had been invested in a project that was not well thought out, with sh1.9b being paid for coffee consumption,” reads the report.
Sseggona said spending on teaching coffee consumption was a nugatory expenditure, adding that coffee shops supposed to be set up in Arua, Mbale, Lira and Tororo were non-existent or non-operational.
“When a team of CIDs visited Malaba, they established that the coffee shop did not take long to operate because Inspire Africa never involved the trained youth. Arua did not raise the 150 youth for training,” further reads the report.
The Committee recommended forensic investigation by the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) and other arms of Government.
“If found wanting, the Accounting Officer and Project Director for the NUSAF-III project should be prosecuted for any loss of funds. A recovery mechanism should be instituted within six months of the adoption of this report,” Sseggona said.
Betty Aol Ocan (FDC, Gulu City) said that as much as the coffee shop in Gulu had been operational, it had closed.
“The shop was closed because Inspire Africa failed to pay rent. It was meant to be a youth project and it was run for close to three years,” said Aol Ocan.
Yusuf Mutembuli (NRM, Bunyole East) said he had consumed coffee from the Inspire Africa coffee shop in Mbale, but it did not meet its intended purpose of ‘coffee consumption’.
“Nobody came to tell me how to take coffee when I was there. If they gave money for purposes of teaching people how to make coffee, then I did not benefit from it,” Mutembuli said.
The Leader of the Opposition, Matthias Mpuuga urged the House to take stricter care in monitoring social empowerment programmes.
“It is an invitation to the House that whenever such programmes are brought here for funding, we should undertake elaborate scrutiny on how the common person will benefit,” said Mpuuga.