President Museveni recently declared that the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) programme had failed and would be scrapped.
“Good riddance,” some may say, because it was an expensive-for-nothing project, swallowing hundreds of billions every year with little to show for it.
It will join programmes like Entandikwa, Prosperity-for-All and others that cost Ugandans dearly but delivered little or nothing.
The puzzle is that almost all the development programmes the government has launched over the years seem to have failed. An examination by the office of the Auditor General of the working of a presidential initiative in which more than Shs40b has been pumped to-date sheds some light on why these projects fail.
Operation to add value to matooke
Concerned that an estimated 40 per cent of the matooke harvested by growers in Uganda went to waste, Mr Museveni set up the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) project.
He picked on Dr Florence Muranga, a nutritionist who taught at Makerere University’s Faculty of Food Science and Technology and also won the Presidential Scientific Innovation Excellence Award in 2005. Dr Muranga also wrote a PhD on banana varieties.
The project would provide banana farmers with access to “science-led processing and value addition enterprises” to process matooke into a range of products for sale in local, regional and international markets.
PIBID would help in achieving two government flagship development programmes – the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA). PEAP has since been scrapped and replaced by the National Development Plan while PMA, one of whose key programmes is Naads, which is on the brink of being scrapped, is struggling.
To achieve its objectives, PIBID was supposed to set up installations in Bushenyi and Kiruhura districts within five years from 2005 at an estimated cost of Shs22.3b. But two years after the initially planned expiry of the project, it was hardly 50 per cent complete, having consumed almost double the money that was earlier planned – Shs40b.
The Auditor General found that the project was launched without a feasibility study, which is “best practice” in project management. The feasibility study assesses the viability and sustainability of the project. Without it, the Auditor General wondered, how could the government justify committing the Shs40b which the project had eaten up by the time of audit?
The project would, among other things, process banana into different forms – like flours and what is called Instant Tooke, and facilitate export of the products. But, some wonder, why the government picked on banana for processing and not, for example, coffee?
Coffee, the leading foreign exchange earning crop, continues to be exported as coffee beans when further processing would earn the country more money. Why not an initiative to process coffee in the first place?
Unlike banana, for which Uganda has to invest in finding export market, the market for coffee is available and is growing in countries like China and America. According to market research by the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT), overall coffee consumption in the US jumped by five percentage points last year, with 83 per cent of the US adult population now drinking coffee.
But the coffee sector continues to be underfunded. Speaking at a coffee breakfast at Sheraton Hotel on March 21, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UDCA) Managing Director Henry Ngabirano said they were “overwhelmed” by demand for coffee plantlets by farmers.
For this purpose, Mr Ngabirano said the government had allocated Shs3b this financial year, up from Shs1b last year.
The government, on the other hand, allocated Shs10b for the PIBID project this year, which some MPs protested. The MPs argued against pouring more money into a “black hole” when even the banana plant is under attack from the banana wilt disease in many places and there isn’t enough money to combat it.
Going it alone
The Auditor General also faults the way the Board and Management Committee of the project went about the planning and designing the project without involving other key stakeholders.
That the project is supervised by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development under the Department of Economic Development Policy and Research, and not the Ministry of Agriculture, sounds odd too.
The Agriculture, Water and Environment, Energy and Mineral Development, Education and Sports, Works and Transport and Trade and Industry ministries were ignored at the planning stage, just like the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro).
Not involving them, the Auditor General concluded, denied the project the chance to benefit from the “synergies that exist among the players.” The institutions that were ignored at the start were crucial in providing support works like energy requirements, constructing access roads, water requirements and development of community processing units.
A lot of money was lost when efforts were duplicated due to ignoring other players from the start. For example, the audit found out, the project built a research centre at Bushenyi, which was found not to be working well after all, when “extensive research into banana development has been undertaken at Kawanda Agricultural Research Centre.”
Also, joint activities like construction of roads, hostels and provision of supplementary irrigation water in project areas have not taken off because the other ministries and government departments were not involved from the start.
The Auditor General further attributed the slow pace of the project to poor prioritisation of project activities and failure to define the project’s critical path – to identify which activities had to be done before others.
Take the planned construction of an Industrial Technology Park at Sanga in Kiruhura District, which was supposed to be completed by end of 2009. By audit time in December 2011, no work had been done even though more than Shs411m to do the work had been released to the project.
The Auditor General also found that the ownership of the land on which the project was to be located had not yet been secured. But the management had already signed a contract with Technology Consult for consultancy services for the survey and development of the master plan for the project at a cost of over Shs385m.
Half of this money had already been paid to the contractor by the time of audit and, the audit noted, the government had to pay the whole contract sum even if it failed to secure ownership of the land and the project flopped.
Also, the audit noted “frequent” alterations of the project design of the project. The project was initially required to take over and renovate the Bushenyi District Farm Institute to house the Technology Business Incubator, for instance.
For this purpose, Tooke production equipment worth Shs3.71b was bought in 2007 but could not be accommodated by the renovated buildings, resulting in a decision to undertake large scale construction of a factory instead of the earlier envisaged pilot plant.
The planned project costs kept rising with time. Personnel and administration costs, for instance, increased from Shs890m in 2006/07 to Shs3b in 2011/12.
The audit attributed the escalation of the costs to the expansion of the project scope, taking up activities that were not initially planned for, and expenditure on “non-core” activities such as payment of bonuses (over Shs494m) and international travels.
Expenditure on international travel rose from just over Shs13m in 2006/07 to over Shs246m in 2011/12, resulting in a cumulative total of Shs669.9m over the period 2006 to 2011. Management explained that the increased costs of travel were caused by the need to promote the products of the project.
The Auditor General also questioned the decision by the project’s management to pay out honoraria to staff amounting to over Shs92m.
The audit noted honoraria is paid to public officers who are assigned work of exceptional importance to the government and is payable only on satisfactory completion of assignment within the specified time frame. In this case these conditions were not met.
The bonus payments were also queried, since it is supposed to be paid to staff as a result of excellent performance, which was not the case.
In light of these findings by the Auditor General, some MPs protested the allocation of an additional Shs10b to the PIBID project this financial year, saying it would also go to waste.
In response, the project’s management reacted by running comprehensive advertisements in the newspapers detailing what it says has been done so far, with pictorial evidence.
But it remains uncertain whether the project will deliver matooke farmers to where it set out to take them.
source : http://www.monitor.co.ug/SpecialReports/An-example-of-why-govt-programmes-fail/688342-1740240-15i245g/index.html
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