Officials at the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) have dismissed claims by Dr Monica Musenero, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, that she suspended funding to the sericulture project over misuse of funds and corruption.
At the end of last month, reports emerged that Minister Musenero had suspended government’s funding to the TRIDI silk project over alleged fraud and abuse of government resources. When officials at TRIDI complained of frozen funds for the silk project, they said that Musenero had told them that as a new minister she needed time to study the project before releasing funds. Now, based on a report detailing findings from her ‘study,’ Minister Musenero has made it clear that she will not approve the release of funds for the project.
According to Musenero, an inter-ministerial consultative meeting that was attended by officials from the Science Technology and Innovation secretariat, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Maaif), and the Office of the President was held on September 08, and a recommendation for the suspension of funding to TRIDI was approved.
Minister Musenero has instituted a technical assessment team to investigate the TRIDI project work, and further written to the Office of the Auditor General with recommendations that a forensic audit be carried out “as soon as possible.”
But in a November 01, response to Dr Musenero, Clet Wandui Masiga, the Executive Director and Sericulture Project Leader, at TRIDI, has dismissed claims of fraud and abuse of office in the silk project. Dr Masiga insisted that the Minister was only unhappy that they had disagreed with her on the direction to which he wanted the project to take.
“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,” explained the TRIDI boss.
“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.”
He further argued that Minister Musenero should have found amicable ways of solving the disagreements she had with TRIDI on the direction the project should take. Masiga accused the minister of blackmailing the project officials after Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja reportedly summoned her over the freezing of funds meant for the silk project. The president’s decorated minister has also been dragged to court over the issue.
“This 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. The Minister after realizing that she had been summoned by the Prime Minister and we have taken her to court for frustration and causing economic waste, she decided to go to the media to black mail us, which is so unfortunate,” Masiga further noted.
“Since the matters are before court, PM, 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.”
Musenero has denied that she had suspended the funding because of her disagreement with the project bosses, insisting that “the actions we have taken are to safeguard public resources and give opportunity for Ugandans to benefit from this investment,” and anything short of fulfilling the responsibility of ensuring that the project works transparently is “a dereliction of duty.”
Masiga also dismissed reports that the land procured by TRIDI from the funds government extended to the project for purchase of land was registered in his name. “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 names of Clet Masiga. This land is in Kween 100 acres, Nwoya 177 acres, Bulambuli 200 and Kayunga 400 acres. Any investments before government procured land were done on private land,” he clarified.
THE FACTS — ACCORDING TO MASIGA
The TRIDI Executive Director explained that the project seeks 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. He added that TRIDI had entered into contractual obligations to use next generation technologies so that Uganda can have a global industrial competitiveness that combines her innovations and foreign technology.
According to the TRIDI Executive Director and Sericulture Project Leader, the project model is guided by the baseline and feasibility study that was conducted in FY2017/2018 which identified 10 entry districts and 40 other districts at project commercialization/expansion stage. He went on note that they are using a nucleus farmer model approach, 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, this model combines both small- and large-scale farming and avoids large scale farming and reduces transport and communication costs, requires less land acquisitions and distributes wealth more equitably and ensures availability of raw materials to support agro-industrialization,” he added.
Masiga further noted that by end of FY2021/2022 the project had completed 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 had also acquired additional 800 acres of land for establishment of silk factory and 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. Installation of two modern factories was awaiting funds to be completed. Ten (10) shells for rearing of silk worm 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 it. The project has also recruited graduate trainees to be allocated different project sites to offer technical support. Up to 140 Ugandans are undergoing different trainings to work across the different activities in the silk value chain.
HOW SUSPENSION OF FUNDING HAS AFFECTED THE PROJECT
TRIDI’s current investment into the silk project stands at an estimated Shs73bn. The project, which is expected to create 300,000 jobs, needs funds to support implementation of planned activities such as commercialization of mulberry establishment on established 2,000 acres; finalisation of procurement of 2300 acres of land in Bulambuli District for Silk Development; Clearing the payment of Machines for post coon processing; Building of capacity for silk worm 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. This project target was to create 300,000 jobs.
“The suspension of funds and withholding of the funds since the beginning of the Financial year 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 per cent has been done cannot be done and there shall be significant losses,” he added.
ED Masiga confirmed that despite these achievements, the 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 because after disagreeing with Musenero, she reportedly started frustrating the silk project.
“We disagreed with the direction 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).” he noted. “We thought for 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.”
You can see more details on the disagreements between Museveni’s decorated minister Musenero and TRIDI bosses HERE.