Over Shs 41 billion of Shs 54 billion of Covid-19 relief cash has already been distributed to more the 410,000 beneficiaries, prime minister, Robinah Nabbanja has said.

PM Robbinah Nabbanja
PM Robbinah Nabbanja

Tabling a list of beneficiaries before parliament on Wednesday, Nabbanja said the ministry of Finance released Shs 53.5 billion for distribution to at least 501,107 beneficiaries with each receiving Shs 100,000.

According to Nabbanja 83 per cent of the money (Shs 41.35 billion) has already been distributed to poor urbanites in Kawempe Division, Nakawa Division, and Gulu City. She added that the government undertook a verification exercise of the vulnerable people in the Kampala Metropolitan Area, all cities, and municipalities.

By Tuesday, 413,504 beneficiary records had been submitted to the bank and paid. The top beneficiaries include bus or taxi drivers, conductors, baggage carriers, wheelbarrow pushers, touts, traffic guides, barmen, Djs, barmaids, waiters and bouncers, bar, gym and restaurant workers, boda-boda riders, special hire drivers and Uber drivers, salons, massage parlour workers, teachers, and others. 

Deputy speaker Anita Among referred the list of beneficiaries to the parliament’s accountability committee (PAC), central government and the Local Government accountability committee for scrutiny. 

The government on July 8 launched the distribution of Covid-19 relief cash to vulnerable Ugandans affected by the 42-day lockdown announced by President Yoweri Museveni to interrupt the spread of coronavirus.

Regarding complaints over failed payments, Nabbanja said that out of the total 501,107 records submitted, a total of 87, 603 records did not pass the verification requirements by telecom databases due to invalid national lD numbers, telephone numbers registered under different names, non-existent or unregistered telephone numbers, and non-mobile money registered numbers.

“The failed numbers have been sent back to the cities, municipalities for correction before payment can be done. The town clerks have been guided and trained by the ministry of Gender, NITA-U on what to do,” said Nabbanja.

Nabbanja says that the intervention was a short-term relief and not meant to address the high poverty levels. She said that as the government continues to mobilize resources, other vulnerable categories may be considered.

“This exercise for providing relief support to our people shown us that we need one; to invest in collecting, analyzing and documenting data about our citizens accurately. Such gaps and inconsistencies have caused the delay and affected this exercise dearly. This is the first time government is carrying out intervention of this nature in a short time and in such magnitude therefore challenges are bound to happen. The important thing is that lessons have been learnt and we shall do better in similar programs in future,” Nabbanja said. 

Mathias Mpuuga, the leader of opposition in parliament (LoP) expressed displeasure to Nabbanja’s statement. He said that the government was putting a lot of emphasis on curative rather than preventive measures. He asked the government to put all the emphasis on vaccination saying that the majority of the funds under emergency Covid-19 are being spent on activities that can be funded under a normal budget.

Mpuuga also noted that apart from food, the cash relief did not consider other costs of daily living such as water, electricity, medical care, and others. He says that these costs should have been incorporated in the computation of the cash transfers.

Anna Adeke, the Soroti Woman MP also raised concern over the discriminative approach by the government to identify beneficiaries of the Covid-19 relief. She demanded that the PM responds to concerns raised by the public that the relief was distributed to only NRM supporters.

Stephen Kangwagye, the Bukanga County MP said that he was happy that the 42-day lockdown has helped the country register a significant drop in the rate of hospitalization and that this is good and encouraging to the frontline workers to move forward.

He said that government needs to provide the country’s health workers with sufficient protective gear and that this must be budgeted for and provided urgently. As of Tuesday 20th July 2021, Uganda had registered 91,162 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 70,377 recoveries and 2,425 deaths. Currently, there are 746 patients admitted to health facilities.