After realizing that youth unemployment was becoming a big challenge to the economy, In the 2013/14 financial year, the government under the Ministry of Gender and Labor decided to put aside a fund that will help them to access capital to start up small enterprises.
The fund was to benefit all youths in groups of 10 under the Youth Livelihood Program.
A year after, in the 2015/16 budget; the government also introduced the Women Enterprise Program.
This was to benefit venerable women, widows, single mothers; HIV infected mothers as well as the disabled.
Women were also to form groups of ten and would be allowed to access Shs12m at district level, and Shs25m if approved by the ministry.
According to reports from the Gender Ministry, so far over 11503 youth groups have benefited from the fund with over Shs84.55bn spent.
Over 144000 individuals have gained from the initiative, 46 percent of these being girls.
The Women Entrepreneurship Fund has reached over 2417 groups with Shs12bn given out benefiting over 30828 women.
However, all is not well with these two funds, according to a study that was done by the ministry.
Janet Mukwaya, the Minister for Labor and Gender has revealed that corruption and inefficiency of community development officers as well as lack of coordination between the district and village leaders is causing a lot of challenges to the fund.
This, according to Mukwayi has resulted into the project having less impact on the lives of the intended group as projected by the government.
In a report that the minister presented to journalists three days back, she noted that they have discovered a lot of corruption tendencies especially from district officers.
These range from soliciting for bribes by officers from groups so as to be considered for the fund, giving less money to groups than what was signed for, charging money for forms, as well as forcing groups to submit requirements that are not “necessary”.
“In Kotido, we found out that the district officers were charging each group Shs500,000 to help them make a group constitution which is not a requirement that we had put in place for one to access loans. As long each member had an ID and was a known member of that community; that was enough. In Nakaseke, groups were charged Shs50,000 to receive forms and yet there are completely free,” Mukwaya said.
Benda Malinga, the Director of Uganda Women Fund Enterprise also relayed that some women and youth groups in different areas of the country were willing giving out bribes in guise of tokens to officers so that they are considered.
‘’In Abim, we found out that some groups were willingly offering bribes to officers. I strongly discourage this. This is a rotating fund. If a group does not get, it can wait for another year. There is no need to spend money in bribing officers because they are not the ones that decide.”
She added: “In Nakasogora, a sub-country chief had refused to sign a women’s group form because they refused to offer them money. If something like this happens again, we want members to report to us and we shall dismiss the officer from his job or arrest them for crippling government programs.
Happy James Tumwebaze, the Director of the Youth Livelihood Program added that in some areas there were extreme tendencies of corruption where a group was totally denied access to the fund and yet it had been approved.
He said: “In Karungi sub-country, two youth groups like the Hope for the Future and Brick by Brick youth had totally been denied access to their money until we intervened. All these challenges will be reviewed and permanent solutions put in place.”
Apart from corruption, there was also a general problem of excluding village leaders from the program execution for instance section and verification of these groups hence the downfall of some of them.
“In this financial year, we want local leaders to be included form the first stages of the group to that last. Group members will have to be verified by local leaders. In addition to this, there was discoordination between district leaders and sub country and village leaders. We hope all these challenges will be reviewed when we do the yearly review in September this year,” Mukwaya said.
For youth groups, there is a problem of members deserting the groups, especially girls who go off to get married as well as other who go to work in other areas.
The minister said they are considering small groups of 5 members instead of 10 for easy monitoring.