The Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection has appealed to government to release the Shs 7.1 billion for the Social Assistance Grants for the financial year ending 2018/2019, to enable the elderly persons meet their needs.
The coordinator of the forum, Flavia Kabahenda, made the call while appearing before the Parliamentary committee on Gender chaired by Alex Ndeezi.
Kabahenda noted that the older persons have spent more than three months without getting money because the Ministry of Finance released only 11 percent of what it was supposed to release.
She said that while the issue of inadequate allocation remains outstanding, it is agonizing that even the little monies allocated by Parliament are not released in full.
Kabahenda noted that a case is this last quarter where the Ministry of Gender expected a release of Shs 8.22bn per quarter for Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) but only Shs 930m has been released this quarter which reflects a paltry 11 percent.
“It should be recalled that government for FY 2018/2019 budget allocated Shs 32.88bn and left a funding gap of Shs 7.46bn for which the Minister of Finance wrote to Parliament promising to table a supplementary budget. The promise made by the Minister remains unfulfilled as Parliament has not seen a supplementary budget request covering the required Shs 7.46bn,” Kabahenda explained.
SAGE is a scheme where Senior Citizens in the country from the age of 65 years are each given a sum of Shs 25,000. The number of the current beneficiaries is at 123,000 older persons in 58 districts.
Kabahenda said that government failure to fulfil its funding obligations causes distress among the elderly, Members of Parliament and all stakeholders.
“We are worried that the national roll out of SAGE in all the districts of Uganda will not happen contrary to expectations of Members of Parliament unless Government finds the required Shs 36.1bn during this budget process for FY 2019/2020,” Kabahenda noted.
She added that the poor release performance for the 4th quarter FY 2018/19 means that some older persons on the program will not receive their grants which furthers jeopardizes the smooth running of the program.
Several MPs on the committee expressed fear that if the SAGE program is not rolled out country wide many of them are likely to lose their seats.
The Minister of Gender and Social Development, Janat Mukwaya told the committee that her Ministry requires over Shs 142 billion to roll out the program but only Shs 62 billion has been provided by the Ministry of Finance for the financial year 2019/20.
In November last year, the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labor and Social Development recommended for a national rollout of the SAGE scheme with effect from the Financial Year 2019/2020.
The Minister of State for Planning and Economic Development, David Bahati welcomed the proposal to roll out the scheme and promised that government would look into it.
The pilot districts for SAGE are; Kyenjonjo, Kyegegwa, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Apac, Kole, Katakwi, Kaberamaido, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nebbi, Zombo and Yumbe.
The elderly (those above age 60) make up 3.7% of Uganda’s total population, according to the 2014 national population census. The same census put life expectancy in Uganda at 63 from 54 in 2002.