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Government Urged to Write Off Loans from Youth and Women Empowerment Programs

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Government Urged to Write Off Loans from Youth and Women Empowerment Programs
Government Urged to Write Off Loans from Youth and Women Empowerment Programs
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In a recent development, members of the Local Governments Public Accounts Committee have suggested that the government consider forgiving loans that were distributed through the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP) and Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programmes (UWEP). These programs were initiated by the government in 2014 and 2015, with the aim of promoting economic empowerment among the youth and women by providing interest-free revolving funds to organized enterprise groups.

During their discussions with local government leaders, who were summoned to address concerns raised in the 2022/23 Auditor General’s report, the MPs noted that the loans provided under these programs had not been effectively repaid by the beneficiaries, indicating that the programs had not achieved their intended objectives.

Jonam County MP Emmanuel Ongiertho pointed out that a significant number of enterprise groups, particularly those under YLP, had disbanded, and it was unlikely that the loans could be recovered from them. Despite repeated calls from the Auditor General and the accountability committee for local government leaders to recover the funds, many defaulters had gone into hiding. Ongiertho proposed that it was time for the government to write off these defaulted loans, allowing the beneficiaries to settle their debts and participate in other government initiatives aimed at improving their livelihoods.

According to the Auditor General’s report, the government is still owed 129 billion Shillings out of the 175.4 billion Shillings initially invested in the YLP. Similarly, out of the 127.3 billion Shillings allocated to UWEP, only 74 billion Shillings has been recovered.

Ongiertho emphasized the importance of learning from the shortcomings of previous wealth improvement programs to better plan the implementation of the Parish Development Model Program (PDM), the government’s latest initiative aimed at enhancing social development.

Lira District Woman Member of Parliament Agnes Linda Auma, who chaired some of the sessions in Masaka, revealed that the committee would make a recommendation to the government to forgive the loans. She explained that they had made numerous attempts to compel accounting officers to pursue defaulters, even resorting to threatening to withhold budget releases for underperforming local governments. However, these efforts had consistently failed to produce the desired results.

Rogers Gabriel Bwayo, the Chief Administrative Officer of Kyotera district, informed the committee that many defaulters had fled their residential areas to avoid arrest. He also acknowledged that several funded projects had not achieved profitability, with beneficiaries attributing their failures to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.