Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have today questioned how money given to members of the Park Yard market as a presidential pledge ended up being a loan.
The legislators noted that the money was not supposed to be refunded since it was a pledge by the President.
However, it turned out that the money was channeled to Kampala United Park Yard SACCO through the Micro Finance Support Centre as a loan.
In April 2009, President Yoweri Museveni in letter to the then Finance Minister Syda Bbumba directed her to release one billion shillings as compensation towards the victims of the fire that burnt Park Yard market near Owino in Kampala, on February 25, 2009.
Bbumba also wrote to the then State Minister for Micro Finance Ruth Nankabirwa to follow up on the money.
Now PAC led by Terego MP Kasiano Wadri asked what became of the compensation that turned out to be a loan and its repayment schedule since 2009.
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The Micro Finance Support Centre officials led by John Peter Mujuni, the executive director who has been in office for less than three weeks, told the committee that the directive was to the Ministers and not to them.
The deputy Director Wilson Wamatsembe was quizzed by Alice Alaso, the Serere woman MP to explain what they did when they noticed an anomaly with the payments.
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The Ministry of Finance officials led by the deputy permanent secretary, Keith Muhakanizi, in their report to Parliament had attached the President’s letter and copy of receipts of disbursement.
The MPs had questioned whether the President’s directive was fulfilled since there were reports that the vendors had not received any money.
Muhakanizi explained that the responsible ministers held political meetings between themselves on the matter whose minutes the Finance team should have attached to the report to Parliament.
Muhakanizi, who kept referring to his team as lousy, said it is now up to the Minister to explain if the President is aware the money was given as a loan and not a pledge.
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In the same report, Members of Parliament also discovered that the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Finance, Betty Kasimbazi, wrote to the Executive Director Micro Finance Support Centre limited.
In the letter dated May 29 2009, Kasimbazi wrote that the one billion shillings be dispatched as a presidential pledge to Park Yard Sacco. However, she also contradicts herself in the same letter requesting that the money is remitted to the SACCO in order to enable members that lost their merchandise to start borrowing from this resource.
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In her defence, she noted that the money was meant to be administered on an interest-free loan basis. MPs wondered whether with this directive the money was still compensation or a loan.
Kasimbazi explained that when the President makes a directive, they still use set guidelines to use the money appropriately.
Kasimbazi says there are many ministerial directives which are bureaucratic. She says this is worsened by the fact that the ministerial meetings never have written minutes and her move was a directive by Minister Syda Bbumba to write to the Micro Finance Support Centre.
The committee is now preparing to visit Park Yard market to ascertain the existence of the SACCO and if the vendors actually got the money. Muhakanizi also assured Parliament that they shall call upon the Inspector General of Government to carry out an investigation into the matter.