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MPs Grill UTB Officials For Spending Half Of Dubai Expo Budget On Travel & Per Diem

MPs on Parliament’s Tourism, Trade and Industries Committee today quizzed officials from Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) after discovering that half of the Shs360M budget was spent on travel and per diem of the officials at the Dubai expo.

Lilly Ajarova, Chief Executive Officer at UTB informed Parliament that although the Board requested for Shs3.4bn to organize the expo, only Shs360M was approved by the Ministry of Finance and the Board is still pursuing Government to avail the remaining Shs3.333bn to promote Uganda’s Tourism.

UTB team included seven staff and also went on to cater for travel of Sam Mwadha, Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority because the entity didn’t have money, with Ajarova claiming that UWA is managing the wildlife estate and their role is very key when discussing tourism agenda.

On how the Shs360M was spent on the Dubai Expo, Ajarova informed the Committee that Shs52M was spent on air tickets and visas for the dignitaries who travelled first class, and Shs9M was spent on travels for officials who travelled economy class.

Uganda tax payers also footed the cost of PCR testing for COVID-19 to a tune of Shs28M, while Per diem for travelling delegation cost tax payers Shs83.3 million. The Board also sunk Shs20.5M on purchase of promotional materials like  bags, safari hats, gomesi and Kanzu.

Uganda Tourism Board also informed Parliament that Shs3M was spent on purchase of baskets for display, while the production of two short films cost Shs10M, while Shs2M was spent on 4 gift packs for panelists.

In another expenditure, courier services for the transportation of promotional materials to UAE, Bahrain and Qatar cost Shs7.1M, while, travel trade in Abu Dhabi cost Shs68.5M, travel trade in Dubai cost Shs68.5M and holding of senior executives meeting cost Shs12.4Mn.

The expenditures angered MPs, who pointed out that most of the money went towards travel and per diem as opposed to the real promotional work.

Francis Mwejukye (Buhweju County) said:  “This budget if you look at air tickets, per diem, welfare and entertainment, is almost half of the budget. And the real work that was supposed to be done, promotion of materials, showcasing isn’t even Shs50M. So you ask yourself, why did we even do this? So what did we go to promote?”

Igara West’s Mbwatekamwa Gaffa wondered the kind of Kanzus, bitengi and Gomesi that cost at Shs20M and wondered why of all people, Uganda Tourism board had to facilitate Sam Mwandha, Executive Director of Uganda wildlife Authority yet the Authority is better facilitated.

“As a committee we would be interested, how many bitengis are they and of which quality? How many bags are you talking about, then we would appreciate the Shs7M that carried this. I am not even convinced by taking the UWA Executive Director, UWA is well facilitated and we supervise UWA, do you know that if you want to hire UWA to give you animals for exhibition, the cost is more than Shs40M for less than five days?” asked Mbwatekamwa.

Harriet Businge (Hoima District Woman MP) lashed out at the officials for wasting funds, saying they are putting the Government in bad light.

“This is what is causing fracas in this country, people are tired of this government, people are tired with the officials, ordinary Ugandans look at officers with a very bad eye and they put us in a very bad limelight. How do you explain that the money went on welfare, it means it is a showbiz for people to take holiday as they cool off on Uganda tax payers,” said Businge.

However, the meeting came to unceremonious halt after MPs discovered that the board had presented before Parliament a revised budget instead of the actual expenditure.

Ajarova informed the committee that  they do not have an actual expenditure as they are yet to account for the funds but assured MPs that it is this budget they had used.

This prompted Mwine Mpaka, Chairperson Tourism Committee to halt meeting until Wednesday and tasked UTB to furnish Parliament with detailed breakdown of the expenditure.

“We are going to request Uganda Tourism Board to come with the head of Procurement and Disposal Unit, and should come with detailed report of people who were contracted to supply this service, you should also come with detailed report of the things you purchased and at what price,” Mpaka said.

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