Gov’t cautioned on Shs49 billion subscription debt to global bodies
Members of Parliament have cautioned that Uganda faces the risk of international embarrassment over her failure to pay subscriptions to international organisations.
The members of the Public Accounts Committee - Central Government, interfaced with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, 17 July 2023, to address concerns raised by the Auditor General for the Financial Year 2022/2023.
Vincent Bagiire, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acknowledged that Uganda is struggling to fulfill its obligations to international organisations, which is tarnishing the country’s reputation.
The ministry currently has outstanding arrears totaling Shs37 billion owed to various global organisations.
The breakdown of the outstanding debts reveals that the Government owes Shs10 billion to the African Union (AU), Shs14.7 billion to the World Food Programme (WFP), Shs1 billion to the United Nations (UN) Secretariat, Shs1 billion to the Organisation of Islamic Countries, Shs1.6 billion to the International Conference on the Great Lakes, Shs7.4 billion to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Shs109 million to the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Shs2.7 million to the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Bagiire explained that the annual appropriation for subscription to international organisations is Shs6 billion. Currently, they are focusing on paying off arrears, without taking into account the current year.
Despite the finance ministry being aware of the necessary financial resources required for subscriptions, the actual bill amounts to Shs49 billion, whereas the ministry [Finance] initially indicated it could pay only Shs34 billion at the time.
Bagiire emphasised that Uganda cannot ignore its obligations to the UN, East African Community (EAC), African Union (AU), and other international bodies.
“Despite the fact that the Ministry of Finance is aware of the resource requirements that we need for subscriptions. The issue in question - yes, we had Shs34 billion, Finance [the ministry] said it can pay at the time but the Shs49 billion is the actual bill,” he said.
Hon. Eddie Kwizera, the MP for Bukimbiri County, proposed that the central government, through the Secretary to the Treasury, assumes responsibility for paying the subscriptions, as it is a national mandate.
He expressed concerns that Uganda's failure to subscribe could lead to embarrassment at international events, affecting the President’s diplomatic representation.
“As diplomat number one, the President can be embarrassed - they are carrying a national representation. They should find out how they can harmonise that,” he said.
The current practice involves government releasing funds directly to the concerned entities for subscription.
Tororo South County MP, Hon. Fredrick Angura, noted that the issue of subscription to international organisations is a recurring accountability problem that brings contempt upon the country.
“I believe the President is the Chief Diplomat and owner of the purse. Why don’t you put this challenge to him as this is bound to indict us as a country?” Angura asked.
Bagiire concurred with the MPs, acknowledging that Uganda has faced multiple instances of embarrassment due to nonpayment, including the threat of Uganda’s microphone not turning red.
Hon. Asuman Basalirwa, the deputy chairperson of the committee and MP for Bugiri Municipality, urged the Foreign Affairs team to consider the proposals and find resolutions to address the matter.