Luwero district has returned Shillings 4.7 billion to the national treasury after failing to absorb the funds allocated for the financial year 2022/23. A report from the district finance department reveals that Shillings 2.3 billion was earmarked for supporting small-scale farmers in their transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture through the provision of irrigation equipment under the Uganda Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers (UGFIT) program.
The report also shows that Shillings 1.4 billion was allocated for the construction of St. Andrew Kasaala Seed Secondary School in Butuntumula Sub County by Roth Services Limited, while Shillings 900 million was designated for the construction of St. Johns Seed Secondary School in Nalongo village. The remaining funds were meant for staff salaries.
Erastus Kibirango, the Luwero District LC 5 Chairperson explains that the small-scale farmers were unable to access the funds and purchase the irrigation equipment due to conditions, including the requirement for co-funding. Consequently, the unutilized funds were returned to the treasury for the second year in a row. Kibirango further reveals that the construction of the two schools was not completed.
At St. Andrew Seed Secondary School, the contractor has not provided the required evidence from the bank guaranteeing their work and is reportedly engaged in projects in other districts. As for St. Johns Seed Secondary School, the funds were received late, and the contract was awarded in June, but it had not been cleared by the solicitor general by the end of the financial year.
Kibirango asks the residents to remain calm stating that the Ministry of Finance will return the funds to the district in the first quarter. He also expressed concerns over the stringent conditions and delayed releases of funds, which were raised during a recent meeting with Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.
Isaac Wampamba, the Butuntumula Sub County LC V councilor shares the disappointment of residents who have been eagerly awaiting the construction of St. Andrew Kasaala Seed Secondary School since 2018. Despite the district handing over the site to the contractor in January this year, no construction work has commenced.
Ritah Nalweyiso, the Butuntumula Sub County female councilor, explains that several farmers applied for irrigation equipment but struggled to raise the required co-funding of over seven million Shillings. She appeals to the government to relax the co-funding requirements to ensure the effective utilization of the allocated funds.
Only 15 people in Luwero have been able to acquire irrigation equipment through the Uganda Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers for the micro-scale irrigation program, despite the large number of farmers in need. The program, sponsored by the World Bank, aims to support agricultural development.
In the previous financial year, Luwero District also struggled to utilize Shillings 1.3 billion out of the allocated Shillings 1.8 billion for the irrigation program, resulting in its return to the treasury. Finance Minister Matia Kasaija had previously announced plans to review the program in consultation with the line Ministry to ensure its effectiveness in benefiting the farmers.