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Minister blasts Wendi technocrats for PDM cash theft

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The Minister of Local Government, Raphael Magyezi blasted the finance team and Post Bank bosses for shunning a crucial meeting last Friday to discuss the way forward for Parish Development Model (PDM) and diversion of taxpayers’ money to the new mobile wallet, Wendi.

In a stormy meeting that lasted over five hours, the furious minister wondered about the sinister motive of creating a new mobile wallet, Wendi without the knowledge of local government ministry vis-à-vis the known and tested channels (government Financial Institutions – FIs) to disburse the PDM cash to the final beneficiaries. Wendi was clandestinely launched in July 2023 to purportedly bridge the gap between the banked and unbanked population in Uganda but in the districts of Sironko and Kaliro where it has been piloted, over Shs300m has been lost. And this is attributed to its loopholes which some technocrats within the Finance Ministry and Post Bank seem to have deliberately ignored. The software was designed by the Chinese (whose address is not known) at Post Bank Uganda to deviate from the proven and tested systems of disbursing the PDM cash to the vulnerable Ugandans for unknown reasons.

Following the February 15, 2024 letter which was sent to technocrats in Finance Ministry, PDM secretariat, KCCA, OWC, ISO, State House Anti-Corruption Unit, district leaders in Kaliro and Sironko districts, the minister wanted to address the queries arising the general public about the motive of forming a new mobile wallet, Wendi and its negative publicity.  

The minister, who refuted the claims that Wendi was instituted by the Cabinet minute as the technocrats at the Finance Ministry allege, deemed it necessary to assess its performance so as to advise the National Police Committee on the appropriate way forward. The meeting did not achieve its objectives since the proponents of Wendi were conspicuously missing. What angered the minister most is the leaked Whatsapp messages where some colleagues within the Finance ministry were refrained by their bosses from attending the Minister’s scheduled meeting.

Whereas the government previously used 13 banks to reach out to the PDM beneficiaries across the country, the architects of Wendi have scaled down the transactions to use only three banks ((Post Bank, Housing Finance Bank and Pride Microfinance).

It should be noted that the PSST and his team within the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development have been writing contradictory letters about the disbursement of PDM funds.

The letters defy the set system in which financial institutions had earlier made investments in providing digital tools to SACCOs and trained PDM enterprises to ensure that all participating FIs did comply in liaison with the Chief Administrative Officers of the respective local governments.

Contrary to the above, the proponents of Wendi allocated this task solely to the computer illiterate SACCO leaders and the selected so-called government owned FIs which are not part of local government structures and lack the capacity to identify and recommend beneficiaries.

What is further shocking, is the motive of the February 7, 2024 letter signed by the PSST Ramathan Ggoobi to the three selected banks directing them to release all funds received to SACCO Wendi Accounts which are controlled by SACCO leaders within 24 hours of receipt. By empowering the SACCO leaders to release funds under their Wendi Accounts, the FIs and the Local Government have no control over what actions or errors the SACCO leaders take and this is likely to put the government at a risk of incurring heavy losses.

Whereas the accounting officers, RDCs, OWC officers, DISOs, Parish Development Committee (PDC) members and elected leaders at all levels were supposed to work together and enforce compliance with the PDM conditions, the PSST’s letter trashes their relevance and gives all the authority and responsivity to the less trained SACCO leaders. This disbursement method which reflects a potential conflict of interest, risk to cause huge financial losses leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

The irony that the Finance Ministry is supposed to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and encourage creation of jobs for ‘Bazzukulu’ is deliberately ignored hence stifling the banking industry growth and job creation processes. Once this is not checked, it may negatively impact the ruling party come 2026 Presidential elections.

Some NRM cadres who suspect that some individuals within the finance ministry are intentionally laying strategies to give a political leverage to the opposition leaders against the ruling party are calling for thorough investigations by the government security agencies.

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