Lawmakers on Wednesday brought to light anomalies in the country’s ambitious Vision 2010 Umurenge Program (VUP), an integrated social protection program to accelerate poverty reduction.
From December 2010 to January 2011, the Lower Chamber’s Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, conducted a field tour aimed at ascertaining the standing of the program.
The problems observed include lack of: necessary VUP guiding documents, understanding of the program by local leaders and follow up reports.
Others are “unnecessarily” lengthy fund channels, unfair criteria in selecting the bona fide beneficiaries, uneven interest rates set for the same poor people when disbursing loans, and short-term contracts of VUP staff.
Hon. Adolphe Bazatoha, Chairperson of the Committee, told the House that on visiting a sample of 20 sectors that enrolled in 2008 and 10 others that started between 2009 and 2010, numerous problems were observed.
“The first problem was that they don’t have guiding documents to help them understand VUP – to the extent that in some areas, when we asked district leaders about the program, they would say; ‘be patient, let us find someone who could possibly understand it because we don’t know how to explain it,” he said.
He added that the channel through which money is passed on to beneficiaries is long, taking between two and three months.
“When you ask, you hear that the money comes from CDF to the account in BNR, then to BNR’s district account, then to Banque Populaire and from there it goes to SACCO, until when it will later reach the intended sector”.
He explained that, in some cases, even when the money finally reaches the district account, the Executive Secretary takes a whole month without distributing it.
Most times, he noted, farmers get money when the planting season is over.
The fourth problem, he noted, was that VUP staff members, in general, have a one-year contract and whenever they get a job elsewhere, they immediately resign.
Bazatoha said that the committee talked to officials in the Ministry of Local Government but their answers were unsatisfactory.
Connie Bwiza, a member of the Budget Committee, emphasised the issue of accountability and called for a performance audit of the program.
“A performance audit must be done because a lot of money has been put into VUP. We are challenged,” she said.
Nura Nikuze stated she was disappointed that a well intended program was not monitored adequately.
“I managed to talk to over two district Executive Secretaries who told me that VUP has turned into a program for entrepreneurs other than the poor. People should also relook the Ubudehe criteria for determining who is poor.”
At the end, the House unanimously agreed that it would meet later and discuss the matter, in a wide consultative session with the line minister, and gather views on the way forward.
MPs also agreed that the Auditor General conduct an audit of the program.