By Steven Enatu
Kaberamaido youth Tractor with number plate UAW 096V that was donated by the office of the president of the republic of Uganda has been grounded and abandoned at the home of a mechanic with debts amounting to 5, 412,000shs
The tractor that was donated to the youth in 2016 with aim of increasing youth engagement in agriculture developed a mechanical fault while en-route to Serere for ploughing and was driven to the home of Daniel Emechu in Otuboi.
The tractor registration number UAW 096V was first handed to the Kaberamaido district youth council way back in 2016 and a select committee of five members were formed to undertake the operation of the tractor.
However, along the way the tractor disappeared and the current council of youth got involved by engaging the relevant stakeholders.
As a result, several meetings involving the then acting Chief Administrative Officer Herman Ejoku, the office for the Resident District Commissioner and Youth leaders were held last year in September 2021 to get the accountability of the tractor from the previous committee but was not fruitful.
According to a source who preferred anonymity because of the nature of her work, the CAO and the previous committee in whose hands the tractor was, said they didn’t know of the whereabouts of the tractor and could not account for the monies the tractor made in the past years.
“The previous committee would tell the new youth leaders that they don’t know the whereabouts of the tractor and the CAO would tell us the same that the district does not know” the source said.
At this point the source said a select committee was set up to go to the field to investigate and find out where the tractor was.
The young farmers were given a tractor at a subsidized rate of Shillings 60,000 per acre so that more young people are involved in commercial production.
The youth council was saving proceeds from the tractor on their account.
The source said that when the team went out to the field, the tractor was discovered at the home of one Daniel Emechu in Otuboi Kalaki. Emechu is a mechanic based in Soroti.
“It was discovered that the tractor developed a mechanical fault and the committee grounded it at the garage belonging to Emechu without the notice of the district mechanical engineer, not even any authority at the District” the source said.
“From July 2021 up to date no accountability has been given neither the handover despite the district council headed by local council five chairperson Victor Ekesu giving an ultimatum of up to October last year for the previous committee to hand over the tractor and provide accountability” the source said.
Emechu owner of Soroti Garage based in Soroti city said that he had been the one repairing the tractor from the time it was donated to the youth adding that on the fateful day the tractor developed a mechanical fault around Ousia.
“They packed it there, they went looking for a way of sorting out the problem thinking it was a minor problem. They then got information that I was at home so they brought it to my home from there they told me that this tractor got the problem and we fear it might escalate” he said.
Emechu swung into action scrutinizing the tractor when he discovered a fault with the engine inside and the shafts.
“I told them opening it requires a minimum of 3 million. He, the tractor leader Samuel Eweku, directed me to open it. I opened it inside my garage at my home” he said.
However, the youths left and never came back.
“It was around Feb 2021 when they could pick my calls but eventually they couldn’t pick my calls,” he added.
This prompted him to phone call the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Herman Ejoku who then promised he would come and sort the bill out after giving the estimate of repairing it.
Upon hearing that, Emechu had a trip to Nairobi where he then considered coming back with the spare parts that the tractor was lacking. He said his interest was to come back and assemble the tractor, which he did so that the District Authority would come and pick it in good shape.
“But up to now, no one has come for that tractor. It’s inconveniencing me at my home garage, I have nowhere to park my car and they have tied my money. I don’t only blame the youth, there was reluctance in supervision and management of the tractor” he said.
“I feel pain for the irresponsibility that the youth are showing, they keep crying about no jobs etc but when given opportunities they just miss using” he said.
The tractor he said is currently in good shape except the battery that may require changing.
From the committee that went out to the field, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner Kaberamaido District Clare Anyipo acknowledged issues surrounding the youth tractor and said that efforts are under way to release it.
“So we plan to sit together as district leaders together with the youth leaders and the previous tractor committee to forge ways forward on how to get back the tractor to the district for the youths,” she said.
Asked where the money will come from to clear the debts? Anyipo said, “I really can’t tell, of course the tractor used to make money from 2016 but from what we are getting from the previous committee, we are not sure whether there is some money even in their account. There are a lot of discrepancies in the all thing,” he said.
She added that the whole thing of the tractor is surrounded by greed and arrogance from the previous committee that personalized the tractor during their tenure and everything they would get inform of money would go into their pockets.
“So the meeting will determine whether they will be forced to pay some money as individuals or the district comes in because the tractor is meant to serve its purpose,” she added.
Emechu said he has given the District Authority the invoice since then but has not gotten any information to that effect.