'World Bank Grant for Women Empowerment misallocated'

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has raised concerns over the utilisation of a Shs803 billion World Bank grant intended for the Generating Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women (GROW) Project.

According to a report of the Auditor General, despite the grant's primary goal of supporting established women-led businesses, a significant portion of the money is being directed towards mind-set change programmes, infrastructure development and competitions rather than directly benefiting the women entrepreneurs as financial aid.

The implementation of the project which started in January 2023 and ends in December 2027 targets female owned enterprises in all districts, municipalities and cities.

However, while the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and the Private Sector Foundation interfaced with the committee on Monday, 17 June 202, it emerged that only Shs133 billion was going to the women directly, while some of the funds would be given out as loans at an interest rate of 10 per cent.
Committee members stated that although 10 per cent appeared small and manageable, government was charging Ugandans interest on money they got as a grant.

Committee Chairperson, Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi expressed concern at the expenditure distribution revealing that only Shs133 billion of the total grant is allocated to direct financial support for women-led enterprises while the rest of the funds are predominantly used by the Ministry of Gender and the Private Sector Foundation, the project's implementing partners for secondary activities.

 “In simple terms, out of the US$217 million, the only money out there for women available for them to borrow from is US$35 million, this is not acceptable,” Muwanga Kivumbi said.

The Commissioner for Labour, Industrial Relations and Productivity at the Gender Ministry, Alex Asiimwe said that the grants will target sectors in which women are predominantly engaged and have potential for scale and job creation.

He added the targeted sectors include agribusiness, manufacturing and hospitality, particularly focusing on foods and beverage as well as crafts and decorations.

AUDIO Kibenge
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender,  Aggrey David Kibenge told the committee that the grant foundation required a holistic approach despite it focusing on women who are already in business.
“The project is structured in a manner that does not address only the issue of credit because we could give women credit and they go and fail to access even that credit in a bank,” he said.

Tororo South County Member of Parliament, Hon. Fredrick Angura called for a re-evaluation of the grant's allocation to ensure that a more substantial portion directly reaches the women entrepreneurs.

AUDIO Angura