By John Ogulei
At least a total of Uganda shillings 90 Million meant for Emyooga Program in Serere has gone to hands of wrong beneficiaries, this website has exclusively established.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in August 2019 launched Emyooga Program, a poverty eradication initiative meant to transform 68% of Ugandan homesteads from subsistence farming to market-oriented production.
The Finance Ministry initially allocated UGX 140 billion seed capital to support youth and women entrepreneurs under the programme, and government has now finalized its allocation to the entire program totaling to UGX 260 billion.
The program is meant to benefit 18 categories of people namely; Boda-Bodas, Drivers, Saloon Operators, farmers, artists, Journalists, local leaders among others.
Serere being among the benefiting districts received a total of 1,680,000,000/= and 90,000,000/= was allocated to the three Journalists SACCOS in the district.
This website has however exclusively learnt that the district last year hurriedly allocated 90 Million Uganda shillings to non-journalists.
Out of over 200 registered SACCO beneficiaries, less than a quarter are Journalists, we can exclusively confirm.
John Moses Etiu (Non-journalist) the secretary Pingire County Journalists SACCO during an interaction with this reporter acknowledged that most members who registered as Journalists are not Journalists and haven’t worked with any media outlet.
He said, the SACCO members in Pingire County have never attended any formal media institution.
“Members in my SACCO are not Journalists. We only used that as a tool to benefit from Government,” Etiu acknowledged.
He further added that “Including me am not a Journalist.”
And when further probed, he admitted having led a group of masqueraders to benefit from Emyooga funds.
“Yes, we have masqueraded as Journalists and we are not professional journalists nor citizen Journalists,” he said while bursting into laughter.
In Pingire County, a total of 43 masqueraders have gotten access to Uganda shillings 30 Million.
Patrick Odongo, the Chairperson Kasilo County Journalists SACCO and former staff of Voice of Serere Radio also acknowledged that in his group there are many beneficiaries who are not Journalists.
He said that out of the 17 registered beneficiaries, only 5 are media practitioners while others are ardent radio callers and agents.
“Its true most of our members are not Journalists. Some are just radio callers and agents,” noted Opolot.
Serere District has less than 50 professional journalists who mostly practice their Journalism in Soroti City and other major towns in Uganda.
Samson Adongu, of Serere County Journalists SACCO and Journalist working with voice of Teso radio, has however blamed the mess on district Technocrats and State Minister for Microfinance, Haruna Kusolo whom he says are partly to blame for the mess.
He said that during an induction at Soroti University, the Minister categorized Radio callers and agents to be part of Journalists which to him wasn’t proper.
“My colleague you were around that day when the minister clearly told us that even radio callers are Journalists, why are you probing me that much,” Adongu said.
Serere District has three Journalists SACCO’s with each receiving a total of 30,000,000/=.
Hellen Adoa Abeku, the Fisheries State Minister who doubles as the Serere District Woman MP when contacted expressed her dismay with the district technocrats whom she blamed for disbursing funds to wrong beneficiaries.
“It’s unfortunate to learn that the district went ahead to disburse money to wrong members without verification. The Money has gone into wrong hands. How can a small constituency of Pingire have 43 Journalists? It’s a laughable matter but needs further probing,” Minister Adoa wondered.
Fred Opolot, the Pingire County Member of Parliament also confirmed that a majority of Emyooga beneficiaries are not Journalists but are rather radio callers and agents.
While not pushing a blame to the masquerading group of beneficiaries, Opolot said that the group deserve to benefit because they sacrifice their time to listen and call various radio stations in the region.
But Simon Peter Opolot, the Serere District Commercial Officer attributed the error to Microfinance support center who misguided the technocrats.
“That’s the problem of Microfinance support center not the district,” said Opolot
Efforts to get a comment from the Minister in charge Microfinance Mr. Haruna Kusolo by the time of compiling this report was in futility as his known numbers went unanswered.