By Samuel Opio
The Special Presidential Assistant on Veterans Affairs, Col Jacob Asiimwe, on Tuesday had a rough time before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament as members tasked him to explain the rising numbers of beneficiaries under the ‘Akasiimo’ project for people who contributed to the liberation war.
The Office of the Prime Minister is supposed to reward civilians who contributed to the liberation war that ushered in the ruling NRM party to power but members were surprised how the beneficiaries shot up from 30,000 to 80,000 and the money they were supposed to share rose from 30 billion shillings in 2014 but to 158 billion shillings in the same year.
The query was from the 2016 Auditor General’s report.
“Neither the verification committee nor the OPM has a conclusive database of claimants who are pending to be paid, eight years after the onset of the scheme,” part ofthe Auditor General’s report reads.
The report adds: “Under the circumstances, cases of duplication and inclusion of non-edited beneficiaries could not be ruled out.”
MPs, including Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality) and committee chairperson Angeline Osegge (Soroti) tasked Col Asiimwe to explain the circumstances leading to the rise when the government was planning to put a cap on the list of beneficiaries.
Mr. Mpuuga expressed worry that if whoever had or claimed to have supported the war is to be paid as a beneficiary, then the country will have to sink into greater debt.
Describing the project as an elastic political project for patronizing the citizenry Mr Mpuuga demanded for commitment on phasing out the beneficiaries.
Ms Ossegge asked him (Asiimwe) to produce a comprehensive list detailing the beneficiaries and their location and age dating to 2008.
She asked whether the government was paying the right people, fearing that ghosts could be eating up taxpayers’ money.
In his response, Asiimwe said that the rise was caused by the need to incorporate other volunteers such as FRONASA and other groups that aided the military to fight extremism in the early days of peace.
“The area of operation has been enlarged by a number of factors, we are covering over 60 districts up from the original seven of the Luweero Triangle (Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Bushenyi, Mbarara, Mubende, Kiboga, and Luwero,” Col Asiimwe said.
He assured the MPs that after clearing the pending 17,000 beneficiaries, the “akasiimo project” will come to an end.