PARLIAMENT: President Museveni stands to lose his political ground among the elderly, due to lack of commitment on social protection, lawmakers have warned.
The members on the Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection accuse the Executive of failing to stand by concessions for counterpart funding for the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE).
“The inadequate implementation of SAGE has cost many members of parliament, their seats so the president must not treat this lightly,” said Kumi Municipality MP Silas Aogon.
Mr Aogon’s statement was re-echoed by the Forum’s Founding Chairperson, Flavia Kabahenda who said that the president just like other politicians from the ruling party had greatly harvested from the programme, which has been bedrock for political capital.
“This senior citizens grant is a political issue. The older people know that they are getting this money from Museveni, so when it does not come, they will know that now he has fallen out with them,” she said.
“We are better off giving this money because it makes political capital and it also makes social capita,” Kabahenda added.
The matter arose out of failure by government to allocate Shs11.65 billion as counterpart funding for the financial year 2017/2018.
Instead, the government has placed all its hopes in aid from development partners like the Irish Aid, which has since raised its Shs17.59 billion obligation.
Mr Aogon described this as “nothing but lack of seriousness on supporting our people and highly suspicious.”
“My concern is that why is it that the appetite for funding the senior citizens grants from the government is so low,” Aogon added, and asked the Forum to compel Parliament to institute an inquiry on how the money has been used.
SAGE is a social protection fund for the elderly citizens where government gives Shs25,000 to each of the 100 most elderly people in every sub-county.
The Programme which has since 2010 been rolled out in only 40 districts, is meant to cater for all elderly person across the country by 2018/2019 for the first phase.
Mr Jacob Richards Opolot (NRM-Pallisa County) expressed worry that government is likely to lose funding partners, if it fails to meet its commitment.
“The government loses the moral authority to apply pressure on development partners towards implementation of the project if it cannot meet its own obligation,” Mr Opolot said.
The members further accused government of causing unnecessary shortfalls for the last seven years, causing a cumulative deficit of Shs19 billion in arrears.
The members threatened to block the budget for the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, until adjustments are made.
However, Ms Peace Mutuuzo, the Minister of State for Gender asked the legislators not to block the budget arguing that government is concerned and handling the problem.
“If we were not committed, there would not be any resource allocation for the fund but we are doing all we can to ensure that our elderly people are catered for,” she said.
This shortfall, the minister said, was caused by a budget cut to mitigate unforeseen challenges.
“The budget cuts have not only applied to the ministry of gender but rather across the board,” said Mr Mutuuzo.
The minister also said that, “the budget should be passed because we cannot solve our problems without a budget.
The minister said that government was considering undertaking a review of the programme, with an aim of identifying the most vulnerable elderly people due to a limited resource envelop.
©Alleastafrica and Daily Monitor