Lawmakers on Monday reacted with consternation following revelations that the Uganda Tourism Board spent most of their Shs360m budget for the Dubai 2020 Expo on allowances and entertainment.
The MPs on Parliament’s trade, tourism and industry committee were questioning UTB officials led by executive director Lilly Ajarova on how they spent Shs360 million meant for the Dubai 2020 Expo.
According to UTB, Shs53m was spent on air tickets and visas, Shs28m was for PCR testing for Covid-19, per diem for traveling delegation was 83 million, promotional materials which included kitenge bags, safari hats, gomesi and kanzus was Shs20.5 million.
Other items included travel trade in Abu Dhabi, which cost 68.5 million, travel trade in Dubai, which cost Shs68.5 million and the meeting for senior executives Shs12.4 million, among others.
But the MPs led by the chair of the committee, Mwine Mpaka wondered what criteria the board used to select tour companies they took to the expo.
Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye said most of the money was spent on other items which did not involve promoting the country.
The district woman MP for Hoima, Harriet Businge questioned why most of the money was spent on welfare and not promoting the country as was expected.
Igara West MP Mbwatekamwa Gaffa, wondered what kind of kanzus, kitenge and gomesi cost 20 million shillings and wondered why of all people, Uganda Tourism Board had to facilitate the executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The Mbarara city woman MP Rita Atukwasa asked the board to explain Uganda’s brand and unique tourism offerings.
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 its the budget they had used. He says they took people to facilitate tourism engagements to kick start the recovery of the tourism sector.
The meeting however came to an abrupt end after realizing that the board had shared with them a revised budget instead of the actual expenditure. Mpaka tasked the team to return with full accountability.
The Dubai Expo was originally scheduled for October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021, but was rescheduled over COVID-19 to October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. More than 192 countries including Uganda are participating in the Expo showcasing their products, tourism potential and investment opportunities among others.