The United states Agency for International development-USAID has announced to plans to close its regional offices in Gulu by the end of this year.
Richard Sennoga, the USAID communications officer says USAID decided to close its office in Gulu and consolidate all operations in Kampala.
In 2007, USAID opened a field office in Gulu in the Bank of Uganda premises, primarily to support the implementation of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives’-OTI worth USD $14-million under the Northern Uganda Transitional Initiative (NUTI) program.
NUTI was designed to aid internally displaced persons (IDPs) to resettle back into their communities from the IDP camps.
NUTI helped to restore basic government services, repaired or rebuilt infrastructure, and provided training and technical support to the Government of Uganda and communities.
Sennoga says they don’t expect the closure of the regional office to disrupt their support in northern Uganda.
Some the projects supported by USAID are the Northern Uganda Development of Enhanced Governance, Infrastructure and Livelihoods (NUDEIL) project, the Northern Uganda Health Integration to Enhance Services (NUHITES) project, Rights and Empowerment in Northern Uganda (RENU), and GAPP, among others, will continue.
Despite the fact that, USAID has not explained the reason for closing the Gulu regional office, it comes just two months after nine staff were reportedly fired for breach of trust living only three workers.
According to sources that preferred anonymity the affected staffs were sacked for allegedly drawing USD $ 21.000 for accommodation in Kampala, but instead slept in their homes.
USAID has a strict financial policy. Sources attribute the closure of the office to the firing of staff. One of the affected workers confirmed their sacking on September 5th for breach of trust. He explains that they opted to sleep in their homes in Kampala because that is where their families are found.
He says that the USAID policy is unfair as it does not allow anyone to sleep in undesignated hotels and places. Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Gulu LC V chairperson also the coordinator of Acholi district chairpersons has appealed to USAID to at least recruit a focal person in each district to ensure functionality, contact and easy running of the program.
He says the USAID office in Gulu has been very instrumental in lobbying and most importantly developing and restoring northern Uganda. The USAID headquarters in Kampala will now continue to provide management and oversight of assistance activities in northern Uganda, and will continue USAID’s engagement and collaboration with local governments and Kampala-based line ministries to maximize the activities’ positive impact.
USAID’s programming contributions to northern Uganda’s recovery have included: Extensive reconstruction of hundreds of health facilities, delivery of health and HIV/AIDS services to more than three million Ugandans across 15 districts, an estimated 150 Villages Savings Loan Associations established and still provide assistance to nearly 10,000 orphans and vulnerable children; construction of more than 500 kilometers of roads, dozens of school facilities, and nearly 500 water sources.
USAID also financed the construction of 35 commercial marketing centers equipped with a warehouse and agro-processing facilities to increase agricultural productivity and food security.