KAMPALA, Uganda: As the office of the Prime Minister prepares to dole out money to a section of Ugandans for use during the lockdown, a ruling party MP doesn’t fancy the idea of the president turning himself into an alms officer in times of crises.
“If the crises keep coming one after the other, can the president manage to bail out Ugandans on each of those occasions?” the legislator quips. David Kabanda, the MP representing Kasambya County in Parliament, counsels that other than pampering Ugandans in times of crises, the president should lecture the people well in advance how to prepare for such obstacles, and how to surmount them when they finally happen.
Addressing himself to the fifty three billion shillings the government budgeted to bail out Ugandans who Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja refers to as vulnerable, Kabanda advises how the cash should have been expended on purchasing oxygen instead.
“What the country lacks at this critical time of the virus (Corona) is oxygen. Moreover we don’t have cylinders for packaging oxygen, yet here is government giving out money that should have been used to purchase the same,” Kabanda wonders. The country was caught off guard when the second strain of Corona arrived.
In spite of the fact that we had picked billions of shillings from the consolidated fund, secured loans and grants from abroad as well as mobilized handsome cash locally, government had not stocked enough oxygen and cylinders to put the life-saving gas into health facilities by the time the second strain hit the country.
The administration had not put up enough intensive care units nor upgraded the ones already in place, let alone equipping them with enough beds, to go around the Corona patients, whose number kept spiking and spiking in the first weeks of the strain.
Terming the fifty three billion bailout a ‘drop in the sea’, Kabanda questions the rationale of giving out relief to a few people much as the regime locked down the entire country. “Why do you give out money…. in any case peanuts…. to people in just a few urban areas and leave out a big number of the poor in the villages?” Kabanda asks.
Pointing out that Ugandans deserve better than the little money the government tosses at them during disasters such as this, this legislator challenges the president to demonstrate that he cares by doing things which are significant and tangible, for the benefit of the country as a whole.
The minister of Kampala, Betty Amongi had on Tuesday answered some of the concerns Kabanda is raising. For instance, she volunteered lessons where she demonstrated how each of the targeted beneficiaries will be able to survive on one hundred thousand shillings for a period of forty two days and ‘purportedly’ keep a balance of twenty thousand shillings!
But she did not explain well why the relief targets merely five hundred and thirty thousand people, moreover selected from just a few of the country’s urban centers, out of a population of more than forty five million Ugandans.
Going back to Kabanda, the MP who is a lawyer by training, goes on to reveal what he calls a sinister plot by the government to delay the actual dishing out of the financial relief with a view to ‘frustrate’ the intended beneficiaries.
“The Prime Minister said initially that she would send the cash relief via mobile money. Then, she shifted goal posts and said the local councils will verify the beneficiaries. She is now saying UBOS will verify the beneficiaries before the money is sent out via mobile money,” he narrates.
He argues how such ping pong by the Prime Minister is purposed to decelerate the payment process so that by the time the on-going lockdown ends, a negligible number of beneficiaries would have been paid.
Upon the expiry of the lockdown currently in place, Kabanda claims how the President is going to impose yet another one. That the prime minister’s office will upon renewal of the lockdown ‘ask’ for more money, to ‘purportedly’ take care of more ‘beneficiaries’.
“The game will go on and on for some time. The fisher (Premier Robinah Nabbanja) is going to catch the fish and leave the lake completely empty”, Kabanda muses in reference to the president’s assertion that his current cabinet is full of fishers.
The Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja announced on Tuesday how the exercise of giving out the cash relief is going to kick off on July 6 without much ado. The first female Prime Minister in Uganda’s history calmed the nerves of Ugandans, who do not have bank accounts, saying agents of Post Bank will deliver the money straight to them. For those whose relief is going to be dispatched via the mobile money platform, she told them not to worry about the charges involved, because her office is going to take care of all that.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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