The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has recommended the provision of a budget line worth Shs4 billion and Shs2 billion to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to cater for post-summit Non-Aligned Movement and G77+China activities respectively, for the next three years.
This was brought before the Committee on Budget on Tuesday, 16 January 2024, while presenting a report on the 2024/2025 National Budget Framework Paper for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Uganda’s Foreign Missions.
The committee’s Deputy Chairperson, Hon. Fred Opolot, told MPs on the Budget Committee that no funds were provided for post-summit activities, albeit that Uganda’s Foreign Policy is implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The secretariats in charge of the Non-Aligned Movement will be charged with hosting and participating in meetings at diplomatic and technical levels, and preparing documents in line with the outcome document among others,” Opolot noted.
He added that part of the post-summit activities include travelling inland and abroad to participate in extraordinary sessions of the Council of Foreign Ministers, international conferences on environment, human rights, trade and disarmament; all in Uganda’s capacity as the Chair of NAM for the next three years.
“It is important to note that these functions have a great impact on increasing market access for our exports, attracting foreign direct investment and the success of international engagements and occurrences,” Opolot added.
Hon. Dicksons Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) questioned why the said activities were not provided for in the current budget yet the NAM and G77+China events are already on going.
“You are labouring to explain the importance of these events that are already here. How can the Minister [Foreign Affairs] not have money allocated to support this? Did you interact with them?” Kateshumbwa asked.
Hon. Stephen Kangwagye (Indep., Bukanga County) asked why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ought to receive funds to monitor post NAM summit activities yet the organisation of the January summits was handled by the Office of the President.
“The NAM activities are going on within the country and according to their report here, a provision of Shs5.6 billion was transferred from the Ministry of Finance to Office of the President. With the ongoing activities, who is funding them? Is it Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Office of the President?” Kangwagye asked.
The Foreign Affairs Committee also emphasised provision of the annual budget requirement of Shs25.054 billion meant for payment of subscriptions to international organisations.
Opolot noted that priority should be shifted to settlement of international subscriptions in order to protect Uganda’s image abroad and safeguard its interests.
“The committee strongly recommends that all the subscription arrears totaling to Shs41.86 billion be transferred from the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to that of the Ministry of Finance,” Opolot added.
Hon. Paul Omara (Indep., Otuke County) supported the request to avail funding for the subscription, saying it ought to be prioritised.
“Severally, Members have discussed that when they go to attend international conferences, they are sent away on account of non-payment which is shameful,” Omara said.
Gomba District Woman Representative, Hon. Sylvia Nayebale, reiterated the need to avail funds for the ministry’s international obligations.
“When you look at the list of pending subscriptions, it is quite long. I urge this Budget Committee to prioritise and know which one we shall look at, especially where the President has to appear,” Nayebale said.
Among the outstanding arrears are IGAD (Shs17.3 billion), World Food Programme (Shs14.93 billion), African Union (Shs3.15 billion), United Nations (Shs1.7 billion), UN Peace Keeping Operations and Tribunals (Shs882.8 million) and the Commonwealth Secretariat (Shs85.7 million).
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda.