The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is on the spot, for allocating almost half of its Dubai Expo budget to purchase air tickets and per diem for its senior officials.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were awash with criticism, with Ugandans saying that the country’s pavilion at the expo was ‘embarrassing.’
The comments forced the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Tourism to investigate the Shs 5.9 billion that was allocated to different agencies to promote the country’s image at the expo.
On Monday, MPs on this committee faced off with one of the agencies, UTB, which was allocated Shs 360 million despite their initial budget of Shs 3 billion.
MPs were however irritated to learn that UTB allocated almost half of its budget, Shs 140m to buy tickets and per diem for its senior officials.
According to the documents received from UTB, MPs realized that Shs 26 m for example had been spent on air tickets of three UTB board representatives, and Shs 25 million was spent on their per diem.
Francis Mwijukye, MP Buhweju County asked if Uganda went to Dubai to promote the country or individuals.
“How can the bigger share of the budget go on per diem? It means it was show biz for people to show off on Ugandan money,” the MP said.
UTB boss Lilly Ajarova who led her team in the face-off however said that the money was not just for flights, but it included all the amenities snd welfare of the officials.
“The money includes hotels, conference facilities where the meetings were held, dinner, breakfast which we had to pay for,” Ajarova said.
Harriet Businge, the Woman MP for Hoima faulted UTB for putting their officials before the country’s image.
The MPs also discovered that Shs 20m were spent on buying materials like kanzu’s, kitenge, gomesi among other items, Shs 3 million were spent on buying baskets.
The items according to documents were then transported by air at Shs 7million.
UTB boss Ajarova said that the items were to be used by visitors to the pavilion to take photos in Uganda cultural attires.
UTB also spent another over Shs 130 million on supporting the private sector that was showcased at the Ugandan pavilion. The MPs questioned how the companies were selected.
The MPs also faulted UTB for presenting to them a budget, instead of a report showing the full expenditure. They ordered the UTB team to return to the committee on Wednesday with the full report on their expenditure.