With a US$ 15m Covid relief kitty ready for rollout in Uganda by GiveDirectly, an American based International NGO, the donors had hoped to bring a huge level of relief and joy to many low-wage workers and needy Ugandans whose livelihoods have been battered by the Covid induced lockdown announced in March 2020.

But without warning, government suddenly blocked the rollout of the US$15m kitty, trapping the would-be beneficiaries between grief, anger and frustration.

GiveDirectly has been operational in the country since 2013 providing direct cash handouts to needy Ugandans but was ordered to indefinitely suspend its operations in a September 9, 2020 letter written by the interim executive director of the National Bureau for NGOs, Stephen Okello.

Okello claimed that an investigation had found that GiveDirectly’s cash handouts were likely to make Ugandans lazy, promote idleness, domestic violence, dependency syndrome and tension within neighbouring villages. Okello also cast doubt on the source of GiveDirectly’s cash.

Interviewed, Michael Kayemba, the country director of GiveDirectly, said before he received Okello’s letter, his NGO was not aware of any investigation. He said he was shocked to learn about a completed security investigation yet the NGO officials had not been summoned by the Bureau to be heard despite holding their last meeting with the Bureau on August 28, 2020.

The suspension of GiveDirectly’s operations dashes hopes of a cash relief for the targeted 190,000 recipients.

According to Kayemba, 48,000 individuals have been enrolled and 22,000 had already received at least the first batch of their monthly Shs 100,000 cash handout. About 29,000 people recently enrolled and are expecting their first transfer. Lira had 40,000 enrollees, Mbale, 29,000, Gulu 16,000, Moroto, 5,000, Mbarara 38,000, Kabale 10,000.

This kitty is funded by USAID, a US federal agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance, while the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office formerly DFID is funding 55,000 enrollees in Kampala (Kamwokya, Kisenyi, Bwaise, Katanga, Naguru-Katale, Ndeeba-Kabowa, Katwe, Kyebando and Kasubi).

Though the NGO Bureau claims the source of GiveDirectly’s funds is unknown, documents and approvals signed between different government entities including ministry of Finance, Local governments, ministry of Local Government, Kampala Capital City Authority show government officials were fully in the know.