Sheema District Local Government has petitioned the Parliamentary Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation over the mismanagement of the Silkworm project at Rubare Farm.
While meeting the committee chaired by Remigio Achia on Wednesday, 23 November 2022 at Parliament, the district officials led by Sheema LCV Chairperson, Jemimah Tumwijukye Buhanda, blamed the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNSCT) for failing to supervise the project.
In 2017, Sheema District signed a grant-funded Memorandum of Understanding with UNSCT to set up a commercialised sericulture (silkworm farming) project at Rubare Farm.
However, the district leadership has faulted UNSCT for ‘irregularly’ appointing a private firm, Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) as the project manager, whom they have accused of mismanagement, exploitation and fraud.
“It was alleged that UNSCT designated TRIDI as per section 3.1 of the MoU as the Project Manager. However, neither UNSCT nor TRIDI has ever provided to the District proof that TRIDI was designated to work on the behalf of the district and UNSCT. There is also no document on terms and conditions under which TRIDI was supposed to work,” Tumwijukye said.
According to Tumwijukye, the project manager-TRIDI has no capacity to sustainably develop the project.
“The District Monitoring and Evaluation Team found out that the project performance was at 21 per cent which is far below the acceptable performance level,” she said.
TRIDI is also accused of breaching the profit-sharing clause and improper management of mulberry leaf gardens which silkworms feed on.
In their recommendations, the district wants the services of TRIDI terminated immediately and UNSCT under the Office of the President Secretariat takes over the station. They also want the project to be handed over to Sheema District for project management.
Dr Joshua Isiko, who represented the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation told the committee that whereas UNSCT does not have any legal instrument to legitimise their dealings with the project manager, the secretariat is waiting for guidance from Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja, over the same project.
“We do not have any document introducing TRIDI to Rubare Farm. We only have the MoU between UNSCT and Sheema District…But a report has been submitted to the Prime Minister and her response will guide us on the next step, however, we do not want to terminate this project,” Isiko said.
Abim District MP Janet Okori-Moe echoed that the silk project is a game changer with immense benefits to the community if put to good use. “We the ladies are interested in this project. We would not be buying silk gomesi [colourful floor-length dress] from Dubai if this project was up and running,” she said.
Persons With Disabilities Representative, Alex Ndeezi, supported the recommendation of government to terminate the ‘contract’ with TRIDI and if possible sign a new MOU with clear terms of preference.
The committee chairperson said they would interface with TRIDI and the Minister of Science. He decried the continued blocking of Sheema district officials from inspecting and monitoring the project.