Last Updated on: 2nd November 2022, 07:30 pm
“Minister Musenero after realising that she had been summoned by the Prime Minister and we have taken her to court for frustration and causing economic waste, decided to go to the media to blackmail us,” says Clet Masiga.
By Milton Emmy Akwam
Kampala – November 2, 2022: The national sericulture project is undergoing a financial challenge after the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Dr Monica Musenero is said to have “sat on the funds” allocated by the government.
In an interview with TND News on October 19, 2022, the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) Executive Director and Sericulture Principal Investigator Clet Wandui Masiga said they are implementing the project in line with the NRM party manifesto of 2021-2026.
Why do you think it is taking the Minister [Dr. Monica Musenero] too long to understand this project? TND News’ Milton Emmy Akwam asked Clet.
He answered: “Well. We just don’t know but I think [maybe I can understand]. You know, she came on board; she has got to get new workers, staff to work with. We have invited her to come to the field so we can explain to her the project, but she has not made that time available – neither has she given us time to explain. We have given reports. I don’t know whether the reports have been contextualised.”
According to Masiga, to date, 1300 people are employed in the sericulture project across the country, adding that more than 300,000 jobs will be created when the 56 silk factories are established.
Even when Parliament appropriated Uganda shillings 43 billion to ensure the commercial production of silk, the money is yet to be released. TRIDI boss Masiga told a media conference in October that the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development made the funds available but up to now “we have not received any funding”.
He is blaming the delay on Minister Dr Monica Musenero whom he said has to be proactive.
“The delay to release the funds is causing economic waste of investment and denying Ugandans jobs both at technical and non-technical levels,” he added, then.
According to Musenero, as quoted by the New Vision, the government has suspended the implementation of the national silk production project. The state-owned newspaper reported that the government has cited “possible fraud and abuse of public resources”.
“Dr Monica Musenero, the science minister, announced the suspension of the government’s funding to TRIDI in a report that gave the status of the sericulture project. The minister said their findings so far point to possible fraud and abuse of government resources,” added the New Vision.
TRIDI’s executive director has dismissed the claims.
“On Monday 31st October 2022, the Uganda media houses published articles suggesting that the suspension of Funding to Sericulture project implemented by Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) was due to suspected misuse of funding as reported by the Hon. Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero. This is not true; there is no misuse of funds at all. What is true is that we have disagreed with Hon. Minister on the dangerous direction she was driving the company, staff and the project hence she embarked on a mission of frustration, black mail, criminal activities and eventual suspension of funding without cause,” Clet said in a statement released on November 1, 2022:
He added that the project model is guided by the baseline and feasibility study that was conducted in the financial year 2017/2018 which identified 10 entry districts and 40 other districts at the project commercialization or expansion stage.
“We are using a Nucleus farmer model approach. This model is a large farm unit (plantation, large-scale farm) which guarantees a certain minimum provision of raw material for a large-scale processing plant or other downstream aggregation use, while the other part of the raw material is procured from smaller farmers who are linked throughout grower arrangement to the nucleus.”
In other words, he said this model combines both small- and large-scale farming and avoids large-scale farming and reduces transport and communication costs, requires fewer land acquisitions and distributes wealth more equitably and ensures the availability of raw materials to support agro-industrialization.
According to Masiga, by end of the financial year 2021/2022 the project had completed the construction of two shells for two research centres in Sheema and Mukono and had supported the establishment and management of 2000 acres of mulberry in 24 districts which will serve as sources of planting materials to serve 50 districts and as training and research sites.
The project also acquired an additional 800 acres of land for the establishment of a silk factory and the production of mulberry for silkworm rearing. Three more silk reeling and reeling machines were being manufactured and are now ready for shipping from China to Uganda. The installation of two modern factories was awaiting funds to be completed.
Also, ten (10) shells for rearing silkworms were under construction in Mukono, Nwoya, Gomba, Mubende, Kween, Kitagata, Kiruhura, Busitema/Busia, Nakaseke, and Luwero. The project employed a total of 139 full-time staff and 1300 casual workers who derive their livelihoods from the project. The project has also recruited graduate trainees to be allocated to different project sites to offer technical support. 140 Ugandans are undergoing different training to work across the different activities in the silk value chain.
Despite these achievements, Masiga added that funds appropriated to the project by Parliament and released by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development have not been released to the project since the beginning of this financial year.
“We disagreed with the direction of the Hon. Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations Hon. Monica Musenero on dangerous proposals she was making and the Hon. Minister embarked on a mission to frustrate, sabotage and destroy the project, and the staff and the implementing institution, Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI).”
“We sought guidance from the Solicitor General and the Hon. Minister responded by suspending the funds. To date, we have not yet received the guidance on how to handle the issue. The letter was written on 2nd September 2022 and was received by the same office on 5th September 2022.”
Masiga, also the sericulture principal investigator, said Musenero is “my minister and a decorated scientist so I expected that when we disagree there is a professional way to handle and settle these issues”.
Minister Musenero after realising that she had been summoned by the Prime Minister and we have taken her to court for frustration and causing economic waste, decided to go to the media to blackmail us, which is so unfortunate, he told a press conference, Wednesday.
“Since the matters are before the court, Prime Minister, Solicitor General, we believe that the mentioned offices will intervene to settle the issues professionally.”
“The public should know that the minister’s utterances are all false. She only needs to understand the design of the project and its objectives.”
The government gave TRIDI money to procure land for the project whose payment was cleared between January and March 2022 and has never been registered in the name of Clet Masiga. This land is in Kween (100 acres), Nwoya (177 acres), Bulambuli (200) and Kayunga (400 acres).
“Any investments before the government procured land were done on private land,” Dr Musenero has been told.
The suspension of funds and withholding of the funds since the beginning of the financial year, TRIDI official says it means that the tender mulberry cannot be maintained, the rearing houses cannot be completed or constructed, training of Ugandans to operate the installed machinery cannot be done, clearing the payment of the machinery whose deposit of 30% has been done cannot be done and there shall be significant losses.
“Our current investment into the project is now estimated to be valued at sh73b. The funds are needed to support implementation of planned activities which include Commercialization of mulberry establishment on established 2,000 acres, finalisation of procurement of 2,300 acres of land in Bulambuli district for silk development, clearing the payment of machines for post coon processing, building of capacity for silkworm egg production and supply, completing the silkworm rearing house, the acquisition of post cocoon technologies and the establishment of mulberry plants to take advantage of the coming rain season and continuous management of tender stage of the established mulberry gardens.”
“The Vision of this project is to generate maximum employment in the silk, silk industry and silk by products industry by attracting new investment and using the latest technology to improve the standard of living of the poor, create jobs, wealth and economic development.”
“We entered into contractual obligations to use next generation technologies for us to have a global industrial competitiveness that combines our own innovations and foreign technology,” Masiga revealed.