Recently, the Chairperson of Bushenyi District Local Government- Jafari Basajjabalaba made a satirical statement advising government that the Parish Development Model (PDM) would not benefit his district because the district does not have the category of poor citizens the PDM is targeting.
Image 1: a graph showing the percentage of multi-dimensional poverty across the different regions in Uganda.
Mr. Basajjabalaba advised that government either takes the model to other districts or restructures the programme. This speaks to the possibility that the PDM is likely misdirected or poorly structured.
The parish development model is a mass poverty alleviation vehicle mooted to rescue citizens from food and income security and other deprivations. The program is allocated UGX 1 trillion ($263.6 million) per financial year targeting 39% of the population that is in the subsistence economy and outside money markets (UBOS, 2021).
Government targeted to disburse UGX 100 million ($26,133) per parish per financial year to reinvigorate food, commodity and money markets at community level. The idea is that each household is turned into an economic production unit able to supply or demand something of value in agriculture and the business chain.
Whereas the PDM conceptually sounds like a great initiative to address poverty, the model is already showing design deficiencies four months into implementation. SecretsKnown proposes that government ought to note the following in order to put the program right in its early stages to achieve the desired outcomes;
Mobilization and targeting of rightful Beneficiaries – Whereas the PDM was designed to target the 39% of households in the subsistence sector that are food and income insecure, “almost everyone” in the communities has been registered to benefit including those that do not need the money and are comparatively better off.
SecretsKnown has learnt that some of the beneficiaries are aware that they are not the right targets but are just ready to scavenge any money that comes regardless! Some of the citizens have decided to either “equally distribute the money amongst the registered households or eat it”. Others have opted to give it to the wealthy to invest in so they can provide employment for them (labor-based schemes) which defeats the objective of the scheme.
Also, little or no effort has been put in mobilization at community level in terms of Information, Education, and communication materials for the program. Adequate time has not been given to beneficiaries to select the appropriate enterprises where they are likely to have competence and good returns based on experience, a random selection is instead made placing beneficiaries in wrong trades without prior knowledge and skills.
In cities and urban centers where citizens are in the upper end of the agricultural chain, targeted beneficiaries are struggling to identify entry points amidst extremely limited information from the PDM foot cadres. Whereas the PDM has gotten publicity at national level and in the media, the same information is yet to trickle down to the ordinary target group suggesting errors in design.
Capitalize on existent economic formations and disbursements. Government has not taken advantage of the existing economic formations in communities to promote the PDM but has rather created parallel structures that have further confused the target beneficiaries. The new structures have not been provided sufficient financial literacy sessions, management, and utilization of the funds for example in May 2022 when local governments received the first disbursement of UGX 17 million ($4,443) which was termed as a pilot and was supposed to be spent before the end of the financial year in July 2022, ad hoc groups where formed, but not trained.
Funds were disbursed to group accounts only for them to be advised not to utilize the funds yet as Parish Development Committees consult. Funds still lie unutilized till date which has created confusion among beneficiaries in communities.
Similarly, the funds were little to make economic and business sense. For instance, five enterprises in a parish in Lwengo received UGX 6.7 million ($1,751). With each enterprise having 15-20 smallholder farmers, if funds were distributed to the smallholder farmers, each would receive UGX 80,000 ($21)! Beneficiaries are now puzzled on the distribution formula! This casts doubt on whether there shall be return on investment (ROI).
In the same vein, government has changed the mode of disbursement from a lump sum UGX 100 million ($26,133) per parish to sending UGX 25 million ($6,533) in a staggered manner citing inadequate funding. The diminutive disbursements are not economically viable and are a recipe for misuse given the increase in multidimensional poverty at 42% (UBOS, 2022).
Politicization and corruption of development programing is likely to cut short the benefits of the PDM. Majority of the beneficiaries are unaware that the PDM is a revolving fund. They actually think it is free money from government intended for reciprocal political support rather than development.
The combined negative synergy by politicians and technocrats to “steal from the poor” is the biggest disservice to the PDM. In Kitgum, UGX 526.3 million ($137,540) which is 80% of the PDM funds has been used for administrative work related to the program leaving 20% for the actual PDM interventions on ground! Insane! The hungry hyenas are wearing skins of PDM managers!
SecretsKnown advises that government rethinks the design of PDM in terms of Information, Education and Communication as well as mobilization of the target beneficiaries and training (in financial literacy and business). Calamitous penalties should as well be instituted for government officials that steal the funds.