Delayed monthly payments for Ugandan elderly annoy MPs
May 30, 2018—Provision of a universal basic income for the elderly in some parts of Uganda has improved their general welfare, but implementation remains a sore point mainly due to delayed payments. The selected recipients get UGX25,000 a month (just over $6.50).
Two years ago, the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Irish Aid agreed to support the scheme with £57.1 million and Euro 15 million respectively (nearly UGX330 billion in total) while the government was to contribute UGX149 billion until 2021.
However, Members of Parliament under the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection (UPFSP) have voiced their complaints saying that this has had a negative impact on the overall Social Assistance Grants Empowerment (SAGE) Programme.
The Senior Citizen Grant (SCG) is a major component of SAGE where those who are aged 65 and older are supposed to receive a monthly payment of UGX25,000.
Legislators wondered why after parliament passes the budget to finance the programme, on many occasions the government chooses to then slash the money.
Jacob Opolot, the Forum chairperson said in mid-week, “As Members of Parliament, we are concerned that poor release of funds has negatively affected the overall implementation of programme. For example, during financial year 2015/2016, only UGX5.6 billion (62%) out of the UGX9 billion voted by the parliament was released while in 2016/2017 government only released UGX13.77 billion (79%) out of the UGX17.5 billion voted. This has resulted in arrears of UGX3.73 billion in beneficiary payments that remain outstanding in the financial year 2017/2018.”
The SAGE programme is being piloted in the most disadvantaged districts which include Amudat, Apac, Kaberamaido, Katakwi, Kiboga, Kole, Kyankwanzi, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Napak, Nebbi, Zombo and Yumbe, catering for 154,000 beneficiaries.
Reacting to these concerns, Peace Regis Mutuuzo, the state minister for gender, labour and social development said the government wants all the money under the programme released on time, but the problem lies with revenue collection. She said sometimes delays also arise from the late release of counterpart funding from the Development Partners.
The proposed budget for SAGE during FY2018/19 is UGX32.88 billion but according to Opolot this is a shortfall on what they as legislators wanted. “Although parliament increased the budget for the SAGE programme, the money is not enough because we expected the government to provide counter-funding of UGX40.34 billion which yet again leaves a deficit of UGX7.46 billion,” he said.
Commenting on the performance of the scheme in Kiboga District north west of Kampala, the Chief Administrative Officer Sarah Nakalungi told legislators that since implementation, 7,648 elderly persons have been enrolled on the programme.
“In Kiboga district the programme is running smoothly despite other challenges since 2011 approximately shs 8.7 billion has been injected into the district thanks to government of Uganda and Development Partners that have enabled the success of SAGE in Kiboga Disrict,” she said.
She said SAGE has changed the lives of the elderly, saying with the UGX25,000 some of the beneficiaries have managed to improve their uptake of health services and afford boda boda (motor bike taxis) transportation. The programme has also helped the aging people to eat better.