Uganda To Lose Property In DRC Over Defaulting UGX 1.6 Billion Rental Tax

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Bagiire, has revealed that Uganda risks losing a prime property in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Uganda (DRC) over the failure to pay US$433,582 (UGX 1.679 billion) in rental taxes, despite several warnings issued by the host nation.

Though Uganda owns a commercial building in Kinshasa where there is a Mission that serves DRC and the Republic of Congo, among others, money collected as Non-Tax Revenue (NTR) is remitted to the Consolidated Fund back in Kampala. However, according to Bagiire, there is now an appropriation to the Mission budget to pay the rental tax to the Kinshasa government.

There are rental taxes which the Mission hasn’t been paying for a considerable period of time and this is to a tune of US$433,582 (UGX 1.679 billion). The country risks losing this particular property [because] the Authorities have written to us and we have written to the Secretary to the Treasury. I have had a number of meetings with the Secretary to Treasury in this particular regard and these resources haven’t been released, said Bagiire.

Bagiire sounded the alarm while appearing before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, where the Ministry was defending its 2024/25 national budget estimates.

He decried the bureaucracies involved in addressing emergencies that arise in Missions when most of the revenue raised is sent to Kampala, leaving Missions grappling with such challenges.

Perhaps [there should be] an amendment to the Public Finance Management Act because we have structures that have been condemned, yet these structures collect Non-Tax Revenue. Our mission in London is to rent premises to the Embassy of Burundi. At times, the lift is down, but Burundi has paid its rent, and the rent has come to Kampala, and then we have serious challenges. We need to revisit those sections of the Public Finance Management Act, added Bagiire.

Foreign dues 

John Mulimba, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that the continued accumulation of arrears in subscription fees to international organisations is making Uganda look ugly on the international scene, and all this goes against Uganda’s foreign policy principles.

 The issues of arrears contradict the principles that govern our foreign policy. The principles which hold our international policy include respect for international law and treaties. It is these international laws that build institutions to which Uganda belongs, and when we fail to pay subscriptions year in and year out and are denied a forum to participate, Uganda loses opportunities. We look so ugly, and it has become a disease. I would like you to indulge the Ministry of Finance on this matter as it contradicts, the Minister stated.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the financial year  2024/25 national budget estimates, annual subscriptions to international organisations has a funding gap of UGX 19.4 billion and this is occasioned by the UGX 6.1 billion consistent allocations.

Ministry officials say such are meagre resources, leading to outstanding subscription fees of up to UGX 41.87 billion.

Committee Chairperson, Norah Bugirwa wondered why the issue of arrears in subscription fees still persists when the three Ministers of Foreign Affairs attend Cabinet meetings where President Museveni sits every Monday.

But all three of you Ministers of Foreign Affairs appear in the Cabinet every Monday with the Head of State who is the overall Minister of Finance and this country’s overall senior diplomat. Is there something we don’t understand as a Committee that Foreign Affairs and Finance can’t be able to sit and agree on the interests that this country has and the priorities of this country and this docket? Does the Ministry of Finance understand your ministry mandate? And therefore, our Missions abroad? asked Bigirwa.

Noah Wanzala, MP for Nakasongola County wondered why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs isn’t considering the possibility of ending membership in some of the international organisations.

Why doesn’t our country look into this matter and rank them? They might all be relevant but you can rank them and say, ‘we can’t afford to pay all the UGX 41 billion, let us remain in these organisations and forego others’ than our delegates going there and they are forced out, that becomes an embarrassment to our country, he said.

The Ministry also asked the Committee to ensure that its budget for Travel abroad worth UGX 4.55 billion is reinstated in the national budget because the funds are required to support the core functions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bagiire also called for the need to have additional funds to a tune of UGX 3 billion to cater for the post Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit and G77+China summit that Uganda hosted in January 2024.

We committed ourselves as a country to chair NAM and G77 as a country; much of the meetings are neither in Kampala nor in New York. These meetings are in different capitals, and the Ministry must be represented because, being chair, we champion the voice and the issues of G77. We have the Non-Aligned Movement post-summit activities, and for the Ministry, we have a deficit of UGX 1 billion for NAM and UGX 2 billion for G77 to cater for post-summit activities for the next three years, pleaded Bagiire.

The Ministry also indicated that in the coming financial year, there will be several development projects that will be undertaken including the construction of chancellery building and staff apartments in Mombasa and Dodoma as well as acquiring rental premises for the Mission in the United Arab Emirates.

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