Some lawmakers have called for an investigation into the UGX13bn the Ministry of Tourism, paid for Uganda to host the 2020 MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA) which was later cancelled due to public backlash over Government’s efforts to whitewash Uganda’s image at the international scene, amidst human rights violations ahead of the 2021 general elections.
The Auditor General, John Muwanga revealed in the December 2022 audit report that the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign company on 5th February 2020 to enable Uganda host the 2020 edition of MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA) that were slated for 13th June 2020 with an agreed Government sponsorship fee of UGX13Bn, that was paid in two instalments of UGX10.4bn paid on 12th March 2020 and another UGX2.6Bn paid on 19th January 2021.
However due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the staging of the event could not take place as earlier planned, prompting the Ministry of Tourism to revise the contract on 9th November 2020 with the company to modify the function and have it held virtually on 20th February 2021.
The Auditor General further noted that the show further suffered another catastrophe due to a heightened electoral season, bringing more challenges to the Awards’ show prompting the organizers to cancel the function on 14th June 2021.
A scrutiny into the Ministry’s Financial Position indicated that the Ministry of Tourism was meant to receive UGX3.2bn from the organizers of the Awards basing on the preliminary findings by a private audit firm that was engaged by the provider, to assess the recoverability of the funds upon termination of the agreement, read in part the Auditor General’s report.
The Auditor General further revealed that the Ministry of Tourism had requested the Office of the Auditor General to undertake a special audit to confirm the amount recoverable, although the audit was still ongoing at the time this report was published. The Office of the Auditor General however, advised the Ministry of Tourism to ensure that once the special audit exercise is completed, the outstanding amount that will be confirmed by the audit should be followed up and recovery accordingly made.
MPS Demand Probe into Expenditure
Allan Atugonza (Buliisa County) who hails from a region where heavy rains and floods destroyed lives and property recently wondered what the UGX13bn would have meant for his residents who are yet to be compensated by Government for the lives and property lost rather than sinking all these funds into a flopped event. He said,
Time has come in this country where we need to say, enough is enough, and this isn’t only in the Ministry of Tourism, this is a replica, this is in [several] Ministries whereby taxpayers’ money, so long as people feel they aren’t benefitting, or people feel they have benefitted, they don’t care about the output. We have lost [several] good projects because of the lack of patriotism and the lack of willingness to better the lives of our people. This money would be significant to compensate our [people], but you can imagine, they have paid it and sunk it for the MAMA Awards, they haven’t followed it up, the awards didn’t take place it is because either someone was interested in getting something, so they don’t care.
He also rejected the argument fronted by the Ministry of Tourism that the event when held in Uganda would have been a source of tourism revenue arguing,
The point wasn’t about marketing Uganda, the point was how to benefit because if it was to market Uganda and it is a concern to media, and us, why isn’t it a concern to them? Such a person would be in jail, but you find that such a person is getting promotions, these are people who are in jobs which are permanent and pensionable, so there should be a reprimand when such a person does such a thing, and they will know this is how far you can go, and this is how far the long arm of the law can go.
Nsubuga Balimwezo (Nakawa East) described the expenditure as unfortunate and demanded for a probe into the matter and a recovery of the funds from the people who okayed the expenditure.
It is unfortunate that up to now, there hasn’t been any accountability on the expenditure of the UGX13bn. We want to find ways of whipping the accounting officers who expended this money. We are requesting for an investigation into this matter… and into what happened to this money, and we demand that the people responsible for this expenditure must be investigated and whipped, remarked Nsubuga.
Isaac Katenya (Bulambuli County) said that Parliament doesn’t have any problem with appropriation to government projects or promotion of certain activities but there is need for technocrats to do background checks because once the money is appropriated, the people spending it must ensure there is value for money of the funds spent.
But money is spent on companies where we don’t have profitability and yet most of this money is borrowed and Ugandans are paying for this money, the country has key priorities which aren’t being attended to, but we give money to certain companies which can’t fulfil their commitments, then it becomes a bit complex. As Parliament, we condemn that, we think whoever is responsible for such losses should be held accountable and pay for the loss, said Katenya.
The Auditor General also raised concern on the outstanding UGX4.3bn the Ministry of Tourism owes to International Organisations for over two financial years, warning that the failure to settle the outstanding obligations exposes the Ministry of Tourism to risks of expulsion from the organisations concerned.
The Ministry of Tourism blamed the delayed settlement of contributions to International Organisations on low budget allocations for the settlement of domestic arrears.
Source: Parliamentary Watch