Last Updated on: 20th August 2023, 09:41 pm
Kampala I Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is responsible for the wastage and economic losses of investment into the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) Sericulture project, the Institute has spoken.
According to TRIDI, the ministry failed to meet its obligations in the MOU they signed.
In the financial year 2022/2023, Parliament appropriated UGX43 billion for sericulture development in 24 districts. The STI Ministry wanted TRIDI to scale down to only two districts, says Robson Aine, TRIDI’s Director of Monitoring and Evaluation.
Part of the money, Aine says was for three other factories for Teso, Buganda and Acholi sub-regions. “Who should TRIDI have listened to? Parliament that appropriated the funds based on an agreed work plan or Ministry whose role is not appropriation? Aine asks, in a statement dated August 20.
According to him, the sericulture project has never had any audit queries, adding that Auditor General always audits the project based on international well-established procedures and practices.
“There has not been any audit query. The project has a legal framework cleared by Attorney General. TRIDI has no single query or even error in its plan and implementation in developing Sericulture Sector in Uganda,” he added.
TRIDI’s latest remarks come after some media reported that “over shs20b was mismanaged in the silkworm project.” The Institute has strongly denied this claim.
On August 15, 2023, the Committee on Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) laid on the floor of Parliament a report on the sericulture project managed by the Tropical Institute for Development Innovation (TRIDI).
The work of the committee is acknowledged. However, we have today seen several media publications twisting facts and misinforming the public. There is a need to clarify some of the issues | TRIDI’s Robson Aine, Sunday, August 20, 2023.
He went on to clarify, thus:
“This project has produced its silk yarn brand named Usilk. Usilk is 100% Ugandan and our Ugandan silk brand. We are very proud we have produced this within the target time frame. We have sent this brand to Europe and Asia and it has been accepted on their market.
“The project had a plan which was disrupted by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. As a result, we have not been able to produce enough raw materials to meet the market demand. Parliament appropriated the project UGX43 in FY 2022/2023 to enable the project to produce raw material for processing, install silkworm egg production facilities and train Ugandans to install and operate the machinery for silk yarn production in Sheema, Kween, Nwoya, Kayunga and Bukedea.
“The Ministry decided to suspend the release of the funds contrary to the Public Finance Management Act 2015. This has resulted in the wastage of investments of more than UGX85 Billion. By the time of the breach of the MOU, the project was employing over 1500 Ugandans. By the time the Ministry of Science, breached the MOU, the project had achieved the following key output:
- The project was operating in 24 districts including Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Mukono, Iganga, Luweero, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Buikwe, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, Lira, Agago and Pader. In Luweero, Mubende, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Buikwe, Agago, and Pader, it is farmers that demanded and they are being provided with skills and input. On station is in Mukono, Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Iganga, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, and Lira.
- Shell for two research centres completed in Sheema and Mukono. Initiated shell for Busitema and plans approved for Lira University by University Authorities.
- Supported the establishment of additional 500 acres of land under mulberry thereby bringing a total of mulberry established and managed to 2,230 acres in 22 districts which will serve as sources of planting materials to serve 50 districts and as initial commercial production as well as training and research sites.
- Procured 870 acres of land for the establishment of a silk factory and production of mulberry for silkworm rearing and committed the procurement of 2200 acres of additional land.
- Deposited 30% payment for the manufacture of three silk reeling and reeling machines which have been manufactured and are ready for UNBS verification, shipping and clearing of URA taxes to be established in three other districts.
- Intelligent equipment for silkworm egg production designed, procured and ready for UNBS verification, shipping and clearing of URA taxes.
- Silkworms are reared at the farm and central levels focusing on training rearers.
- Two complete lines of post cocoon were delivered to Uganda and installed and not completed in Sheema and Kween.
- Ongoing research on various aspects of Sericulture.
- 10 shells for rearing of silk worms being constructed in Nwoya, Gomba, Mubende, Kween, Kitagata, Kiruhura, Busitema/Busia, Buikwe, Nakaseke, and Luwero.
- The project employs a total of 152 full-time staff and 1500 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.
According to Aine, the report of the Committee of Science, Technology and Innovations does mention some of the outputs. However, it has omitted some facts and inaccuracies.
“The entire blame for wastage of investment is 100% a responsibility of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations and the allies that it mobilized to blackmail the project, the scientist and the Institution, TRIDI. The project is at 6% funding and yet at 8% implementation.
“In other words, implementation is ahead of the level of financing. The assets of the project are managed within the provisions of the MOU which has not yet been suspended or terminated. Funding was suspended without suspending the activities and the MOU. Apart from scaling down to two sites, we are not in agreement because all the recommendations of the committee would not have been mentioned if the funding had not been suspended. The Ministry should take responsibility for the wastage and economic losses that the project has suffered.
“This project is a result of Financial Support from the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, to Scientists through the Innovation Fund. It is the first project of the 17 innovation fund projects funded in FY2017/2018 to produce a commercial product.
“Usilk is the first commercial product from the Commercialization of sericulture technologies and Innovations project implemented by the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI).”
Aine explains the process, saying it begins in the garden growing mulberry plants. The leaves of this plant are fed to Silkworms reared in a rearing house. The cocoons produced by the silkworm are harvested before the moth emerges to extract the silk thread known as silk yarn through a process of reeling and re-reeling. We have done all this from here in Uganda and there are many more products we are yet to produce.
“The project is to be implemented in 50 districts and currently, it is being implemented in 24 districts of Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Mukono, Iganga, Luweero, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Buikwe, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, Lira, Agago and Pader. In Luweero, Mubende, Kayunga, Nakaseke, Kween, Buikwe, Agago, and Pader, it is farmers that demanded and they are being provided with skills and input. On station is in Mukono, Sheema, Kiruhura, Bulambuli, Kamuli, Mubende, Iganga, Bukedea, Zombo, Nwoya, Pallisa, Busia, Amorator, Otuke, and Lira,” the director of monitoring and evaluation explained.
At full commercialization, TRIDI shall have invested in the project UGX800 billion and the government of Uganda will earn approximately UGX50 billion annually in taxes. The jobs created will be worth 300 billion every year.
“Project assets are managed within the provisions of the MOU and it should not be used as a reason for the government failing to meet its obligations. Parliament appropriated funds for work in 24 districts, so why should TRIDI scale the work to two districts? Who will explain to parliament what happened later?”