The Observer (Kampala)

1 January 2013

Uganda: Politics Continue to Taint NAADS Project

Political interference, flouted procurement procedures and poor record keeping have continued to taint the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) projects in most parts of the country.

Legislators and local councillors have been blamed for decampaigning the project and putting pressure on district and sub county Naads coordinators demanding for cash to run their activities. Farmers and Naads coordinators accuse councillors of interfering in the selection process of commercial farmers and distribution of farm inputs.

The councillors have also been accused of demanding cash in lieu of physical enterprises they are supposed to develop.

"They can call you a hundred times a day demanding for money. When you give them the animals or any enterprise, they don't take it, but instead demand for cash," a coordinator from Mubende, who requested not to be named, said. "Our hands are tied."

Stanley Yikii Adraa, the sub-county chief in Bagezza, Mubende, said the political interference has seen the diversion of the project's primary objectives. He said beneficiaries now receive distorted information. "As an accounting officer, I don't want to be accountable for mistakes and I will not tolerate this kind of interference," he said.

A recent spot check by the State House Naads Monitoring Unit in the districts of Buikwe, Kiboga, Mubende, and Kyankwazi unearthed a number of anomalies. The team led by Sr Grace Akiror, the Special Presidential Advisor (SPA) Naads Monitoring Unit State House, found that poor record keeping especially in accounts department, flouted procurement procedures and inadequate supervision had led to misappropriation of funds.

In some sub-counties, accountants could not account for much of the funds they spent. They also had no credible documents to justify their expenditures.

"The reports are full of audit queries as a result of weak internal financial controls. Therefore, an in-depth audit will be done to ascertain value for money and physical existence of technologies given to farmers," Akiror said. "If the audit shows non-existence of the said technologies, the responsible officers should be held accountable with the view of refunding government funds," she added.

In Njeru town council in Buikwe district, it was evident that the procurement procedures are not followed. Money is spent without going through the normal bidding process. PPDA regulations section 117 (3) regarding procurement rules for quotations and proposals procurement demands that a procuring entity obtains at least three bids. But this is not the case in many districts.

Joseph Mukwaya, Buikwe Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), said the district needs close attention. "Njeru town council is a disaster," said Mukwaya. "We have taken standard measures to clear the mess on public funds. As we talk now, the Njeru Town Clerk Treasurer, Commercial Officer and Naads coordinator are all under interdiction."

Benedict Ssekyanzi, the district Naads Coordinator Kiboga, said high expectations from farmers for the seemingly big Naads budget, community procurement, and frequent changes in Naads guidelines were some of the challenges affecting the project.

"We also have challenges of co-funding and selfishness, which has led to low repayment by the beneficiaries," Ssekyanzi said.

In spite of the efforts, diseases like Newcastle for poultry, East Coast Fever for dairy and banana wilt are also affecting the implementation of Naads projects. As the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of Naads funds continues to gain ground, a number of Naads coordinators are being caught red-handed for misappropriation of funds.

The State House Naads Monitoring unit has so far recovered Shs 20.9m from Amuru district. Another Shs 3.3m is being traced from Buikwe district. In Katakwi district, the district Naads coordinator, John Olupot, has been tasked to account for Shs 78m that was utilized without proper accountability. The funds were part of the Shs 145m released for the development of a seed bank to empower communities in the sub-counties of Magoro, Ngariam, Palam and Ongongoja.

The minister of Agriculture, Aminal industry and Fishers, Tress Bucyanayandi, recently declined to renew contracts of all Naads board members, saying government was reviewing Naads programmes to improve their performance. Poor monitoring, inadequate sensitization and theft of funds have led to interdiction of most coordinators pending investigations.

The SPA Naads contends that despite the challenges, the project is registering some success in many parts of the country. Akiror cited Mubende and Kakuuto county in Rakai as some of the areas that have recorded success stories. The Naads monitoring unit was set up in July 2011 and started operation in October to monitor performance of Naads activities in the country.

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