ARUA CITY: Political leaders from across the West Nile region have appealed to the government to extend the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF III) program beyond the stipulated end of June 2021.

The leaders have also urged the government through the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to redesign the program so that many more people can benefit.

They voiced their concerns during a consultative meeting for Members of Parliament and district chairperson-elects at Hotel Desert Breeze in Arua city on Wednesday.

“The design of NUSAF III has never favoured the urban set-up and yet there is a lot of rural urban migration, when I perused through the said activities, most of these projects were only paperwork, so, why should we go with this poor design to NUSAF IV?”, charged Mr Lee Jackson Atima, the MP elect for Arua central division.

Atima also complained that the inspectorate of government, charged with the fight against corruption had totally failed its mandate leading to the suspension of districts like Arua just because a single individual had embezzled money.

He said the planning should chiefly focus on the youth and women groups many of who are spread in the urban setups.

Mr William Anyama, the district chairman Moyo criticized NUSAF II and III for only focusing on household food security.

“Today, if you talk of the GDP of West Nile and northern Uganda being very low below the national average and West Nile being the second poorest region after Karamoja, its true because the focus of the programs was only house hold consumption and little on the commercial agriculture and the aspect of trade and income and that’s why the poverty levels have persisted” Anyama claimed.

He further said the increase in the geographical area without any increase of the financial resource had greatly watered down the impact of the NUSAF III program.

“We need a successor project but a better one, the amount of money put in place is very little and yet the geographical scope has been widened, today you have districts like Mbale, Bukedia all classified under northern Uganda for the purposes of eligibility for NUSAF, what miracle can you make because you are dealing with the same resource envelope?” Anyama asked.

However, the deputy speaker of Parliament Mr Jacob Olanyah, who addressed the meeting said despite the shortcomings, the social action fund must continue.

“My opinion is that the program should continue as a special purpose vehicle to raise the social status of our people, there may have been challenges and some people might have misbehaved along the way but it doesn’t change the bigger narrative that there are vulnerable people who need a special purpose vehicle to lift them from where they are to where they ought to be” Olanyah stated.

Dep Jacob OulanyahDeputy speaker Mr Jacob Oulanyah adresses the participants. PHOTOS BY RIMILIAH AMANDU.

Commenting on the rampant allegations of corruption in the program, he also said stricter measures should be taken against perpetrators with heavy deterrent penalties to try to discourage others from following suit.

Mr Alfred Odera, an operation specialist of NUSAF III said the program had numerous achievements in the eight sub regions where it was implemented.

As key highlights, Odera said the program had funded more than 2.9million beneficiaries, 11,546 community investment groups in 67 districts spread across eight regions with a total sum of over 339 billion shillings disbursed within the five-year period (2016-2021).

He said as a result of the interventions, income levels had increased where NUSAF livelihood projects were undertaken.

Mr OderaMr Odera said the NUSAF III has many achievements despite the gaps.