How OPM Awarded Shs 9.6B to a Local Firm To Train Youth On How To Drink Coffee, Set Up ‘Non-Existent Coffee Shops’

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) is on the spot for spending Shs9.6 billion on a local firm to train youth on how to drink coffee.

MPs on Thursday raised the matter after the Auditor General revealed that some of the coffee shops established in Gulu, Mbale, Lira during this campaign are non-existent.

According to documents obtained by Business Focus, on May 16, 2017, the OPM signed a Memorandum of Understanding with M/s Inspire Africa (U) Limited as a capacity building partner for a two-year period (2017-2019), with a possibility of renewal subject to satisfactory performance.

On May 13, 2019, the arrangement was extended by two years to March 2021.

The activities were to cost Shs9.6 billion to carry out production of coffee (training of farmers at Shs3.8 billion, consumption of coffee at Shs1.9 billion, capacity building at Shs2.6 billion and project administration at Shs1.2 billion.

Subsequently, M/s Inspire Africa was paid Shs1.9 billion to set up coffee shops and attendant infrastructure in Arua, Mbale, Lira, Gulu and Tororo.

The AG report,however, shows that except for Gulu, the coffee shops were either non-existent in some places or non-operational in areas where they were supposed to be placed.

For instance in Arua, the report says the facility was not operational. The report cites the Covid-19 lockdown as the reason for the facility’s non operationality. The same applies to Mbale. The report cites the long period of the Covid-19 lockdown. In Lira, the refurbishment of the coffee shop did not commence.

This report prompted Members of Parliament to task OPM officials to explain how the said money was spent.

Robert Limlim, the Director, Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) at OPM defended the money (Shs 9.6 Billion) saying it was spent on training youth on how to drink coffee, and that it was geared towards bringing the youth into the coffee economy.

He also said the money was also spent on purchase of coffee equipment, but the Auditor General in his report questioned the existence of the coffee equipment in question.

“The young people in Uganda need to participate in the coffee economy and one of the ways the young people told us, especially those in the city they would like to sell coffee and other merchandise but coffee had to be one of the items we promote. So, we needed to have partners that are able and working in the coffee industry to do this,” Limlim said.

The Auditor General says failure to set up and operationalise the coffee shops denies the beneficiary communities services and may curtail the achievement of the project objectives of providing effective income support and building resilience of poor and vulnerable households.

It should be noted that Inspire Africa owned and founded by Nelson Tugume is one of the companies set to eat big from the Shs37bn Parliament allocated to President Museveni’s son in law, Odrek Rwabwogo for a project aimed at promoting coffee value addition.

The money was allocated to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development headed by Rwabwogo.

It is understood that the coffee value addition agenda was fronted by Tugume and bought by State House officials.

There are concerns from coffee stakeholders why only one company is literally benefiting from Government funding. This website understands that a number of local companies adding value to coffee were ‘used’ to secure the Shs37bn coffee value addition deal but they have since been sidelined in subsequent discussions.

Stakeholders are also concerned why the money in question wasn’t allocated to a relevant agency like the Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).

This article first appeared on The Business Focus

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