Defence spending Shs400m monthly to fly troops to Somalia

The Ministry of Defence is spending a total of Shs400 million monthly to fly troops to Somalia and other destinations following the grounding of planes owned by Uganda Air Cargo.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Rosette Byengoma, told the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs that Uganda Air Cargo has been chartering flights for the job, and that government loses money because of the third party involved. Byengoma called for money to be made available so that grounded aircraft can be worked on.

Officials from the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs, led by Minister Jacob Oboth, were appearing to respond to issues raised by the committee on the Defence Ministerial Policy Statement for the financial year 2024/2025. The meeting was held on Tuesday, 26th March 2024.

The issue was raised by the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Wilson Kajwengye, who wondered how troops are transported amidst the grounded aircraft. 

"We have our forces in Somalia and elsewhere. How do you take these soldiers and how much money do you spend? Are you not spending more on taking our soldiers than if you had aircraft?" he asked.

The General Manager of Uganda Air Cargo, Gen. Lakibus Lakara, said that the aircraft were in a sorry state and unable to be used. 

"I have no aircraft in the air as we speak. One is in the hangar under repair. Although one of them is repairable, the cost of repair does not make economic sense," he said.

Gen. Lakara proposed to dispose the existing aircraft, saying that repairing them would be costlier. 

"So the process now is to see that we dispose of those aircraft than keeping them on the ground," Lakara said. 

Hon. Kajwengye said that the process to dispose of the aircraft is with the Ministry of Defence, and that Parliament will only come in to see if the law was followed.

The Ministry of Defence has requested for Shs381 billion for the procurement of an aircraft. 

In December 2023, Cabinet revived the Uganda Air Cargo Corporation (UACC) Limited, an enterprise under the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). Specialising in cargo freight services and troop carriers, UACC has languished in dormancy for nearly four years due to insufficient operational funds. Currently, there are five aircraft with three awaiting disposal and two undergoing repairs.

The Ministry of Defence is currently seeking for a budget of Shs7.9 trillion for the upcoming financial year of 2024/2025 to effectively execute their responsibilities. 

In his presentation before the committee, Hon. Jacob Oboth disclosed a significant disparity between their allocated funds and their required budget, with only Shs3.8 trillion allotted, leaving a shortfall of Shs4 trillion. 

Minister Oboth appealed to the committee for assistance in mobilising funds, citing the inadequacy of their current allocations, which fall short of meeting even 50 percent of their requirements.

AUDIO: Minister Oboth

Byengoma, the Permanent Secretary, highlighted several areas of underfunding, including a Shs962 billion deficit for wage enhancements and staff recruitment, as well as shortfalls in pension, medical, funeral expenses, fuel, soldier clothing, and travel abroad, among others. 

AUDIO: Byengoma