The committee on trade, tourism and industry has tasked the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) to account for the 360 million shillings spent during the Dubai 2020 Expo.
UTB led by its executive director Lilly Ajarova today appeared before the committee which is probing into concerns arising from Uganda’s participation in the Dubai Expo in the United Arab Emirates.
The committee was concerned that the officials used most of the 360 million shillings in per diems and other expenses like meals and entertainment instead of action tourism promotional materials.
According to their accountability, 53 million shillings was spent on air tickets and visas, PCR testing for Covid-19 cost 28 Million shillings, per diem for traveling delegation 83 million, promotional materials which included kitenge bags, safari hats, gomesi and kanzu’s totaled 20.5 million shillings.
Other items included baskets for display which cost 3 million shillings, production of two short films 10 million shillings, 4 gift packs for panelists 2 million shillings, courier of promotional materials to UAE, Bahrain and Qatar 7.1 million shillings, travel trade in Abu Dhabi 68.5 million shillings, travel trade in Dubai 68.5 million shillings and the meeting for senior executives 12.4 million shillings among others.
The members of parliament on the committee expressed concern with the items that Uganda Tourism Board spent their funds on. Mbarara City South Division MP and chair of the committee, Mwine Mpaka wondered what criteria the board used to select tour companies they took to the expo.
The Buhweju county MP Francis Mwijukye was shocked to learn that 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.
The 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.