MPs probe Gender Ministry officials over street children

Officials from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development have been tasked to explain the proliferation of street children in Kampala.

Appearing before Parliament’s Committee on Public Accounts – Central Government chaired by Deputy Chairperson Hon. Asuman Basalirwa on Tuesday 18 July 2023, officials led by Permanent Secretary, Aggrey Kibenge had to defend the growing number of children on the streets despite continued funds allocation to mitigate the same.

The Auditor General, in his query, noted the ministry’s lack of a proper database on the children, which prompted the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to slash funds meant to rehabilitate them.
“Whereas the Ministry [of Gender, Labour and Social Development] estimates that the number of street children could be 1000, only 292 could be accounted for leaving over 700 children untraceable,” noted the Auditor General in his query.

In their management response, the ministry traded blame with their Finance counterparts saying only Shs44million was released to cater for street children, despite the already paltry Shs142million that was approved.
hon.  Mary Begumisa (NRM, Sembabule District) said the ministry is unserious about ending the street children challenge.
“Do you know the embarrassment we have had with tourists taking photographs of the children and posting them? I work in tourism and this is not good,” she said.

For Hon. Stella Atyang (NRM, Moroto District), the failure to collect actionable data on the children is inexcusable.
“There is an increase in the number of children coming from Karamoja; I want to know whether you managed to gather information on the number of children, did you take initiative to collect that information?” she said.

Kashari North County MP, Hon. Basil Bataringaya supported the Ministry of Finance’s decision to scrap funds meant for street children saying it is the only logical thing to do since the Ministry of Gender does not have a working figure to justify their budgeting.
“I would withdraw the whole money; you can’t account for numbers you don’t have. If they were street children five years ago, they are probably street men now, and they are extremely aggressive,” he said.

Bukimbiri County MP, Hon. Eddie Kwizera agreed, saying they are a serious security threat and that the national security apparatus should pick interest.
“It is a matter that should be discussed in the National Security Council; has the ministry taken trouble to find out the causes and the source of where they come from?” he said.

Kibenge said the ministry is not interested in getting money for the street children, but that they want the challenge addressed, be it by local governments.
“Funding has always been a challenge; we are not saying we need the money at Gender; if the problem can be solved at the local government level, so be it,” he said.