By SMN Investigations Team
NAGONGERA, Tororo|SHIFTMEDIA|A row over unpaid labourers’ wages has hit Nagongera Town Council in Tororo District with scores of residents crying foul during this festive season.
On spot is the Nagongera Town Council L C3 chairperson (Mayor) Pius Opio who is accused of ‘swindling’ the cash along with the Council Engineer.
The State House Anti- Corruption Unit headed by Col. Edith Nakalema is investigating the matter and we can reveal that heads are about to roll.
Scores of angry workers stormed the Mayor’s residence in Nagongera Town Council on December 23 demanding their payments so as to buy meat on Christmas Day.
They were shocked when they were each paid a paltry shs45,000 out of the entire payments they were demanding.
The labourers are part of those who were hired by the Town Council to clear new roads and uproot tree trunks in earmarked new roads within the town council.
Apparently, Opio had told the enraged workers that he had decided to borrow some shs400,000 to be shared among the eight labourers during Christmas as they wait for the government to release funds.
These include Okumu Fred who is demanding shs545,000, Onyango Domisiano (Shs235,000), Osinde Okongo (Shs435,000), Okello John Okogo (Shs305,000), Ochwo Peter (Shs20,000), Owor Samuel (Shs195,000), Ofwono Michael (Shs300,000) and Charles Obbo (Shs90,000).
Ochwo Peter, the youngest labourer aged 21 who was demanding just shs20,000 wasn’t paid a coin sending him in wild cries that attracted many.
These workers accused Opio Pius and his team of fleecing them by paying them shs6,000 per day instead of the mandatory shs10,000.
“They claimed the deducted shs4,000 was to cate for our lunch but we work in hot sunshine without lunch, not even water, but sadly even the shs6,000 we are supposed to be paid is now also swindled,” said Osinde Okongo.
They vowed to rest only after they are paid. “It is better they pay us and sack us than torture us like this,” said Onyango Domisiano.
Finance Minister Speaks out
The investigative team called Finance Minister Hon Matia Kasaijja who clearly made it clear that money for the second quarter was released. “I can authoritatively tell you that money was released by the government to all local government but can’t recall how much was released to Tororo district, perhaps the CAO can be in a position to clarify on the exact amount,” said Kasaijja.
Kasaijja warned district leaders against misusing government funds.
The Chief Administrative Officer Tororo Dunstan Balaaba acknowledged that funds were received from the central government and effectively transferred to respective town councils and sub-counties in Tororo.
“Funds came in around November 2021 and I dispatched shs17m to Nagongera Town Council so I don’t understand why the council has not paid people,” he wondered.
Balaaba also wondered why the labourer’s who were supposed to be paid shs10,000 per were being paid shs6,000.
“It is not in order to withhold people’s money after they have worked. Why should the council also deduct labourer’s money for lunch, it is not the work of the council to provide lunch,” he said.
Balaaba then tasked the Nagongera Town Council clerk Samalie to explain the anomalies.
Town Clerk responds
The Nagongera Town Council Town Clerk Sabano Samalie (who is new here) acknowledged receiving shs15million from CAO Tororo as funds for the council. She said that all Road Gangs were duly paid. “The money was released, and I don’t expect anyone to be demanding. The Council and the engineer should be in a position to explain,” she said.
Samalie tasked the Nagongera Town Council Mayor Pius Owino to explain why he paid the workers less money yet he was given all money being demanded, but he remained speechless.
Opio Pius instead threatened to sack the angry workers when contacted.
RDC vows to crack the whip
Tororo Resident District Commissioner Nixon Owole was shocked to learn that funds meant for workers were being misappropriated by corrupt and selfish leaders. “It is saddening, if the cash was released why were the workers not paid? I will follow this up immediately,” he said.
He promised to have the Nagongera Town Council Mayor arrested for swindling government money meant for development projects.