Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has placed a blanket ban on travel abroad by Members of Parliament and civil servants to save money for other priority sectors.
While commissioning facilities at Uganda Petroleum Institute-Kigumba (UPIK) in Kiryandongo District on Saturday, Museveni was not happy to learn that the institute does not have enough funding to become a fully-fledged institute.
He bashed the Finance ministry officials for failing to prioritise the most important sectors such as oil and gas that will generate billions of money for the economy and asked them to ban travel abroad as well as internal allowances.
“Some of them just want money to travel abroad. Tell the civil servants, the MPs and all politicians to stop travelling abroad. Money is wasted on external travel and here Kigumba is crying for money. This is really poor planning,” the President said.
Museveni said he was informed that even before the oil starts flowing, the oil companies are going to invest $15b (Sh54.7 trillion) in Uganda and out of that, 40 per cent will remain in the country.
The President, who was in the company of the Minister of Education and First Lady, Janet Museveni, said the government contracted UPIK to train experts who are going to work in oil exploration.
“So how can you say that you lack Shs8b per year, which I think is $2m, in order to earn $7b from the oil sector? It is not lack of money, but lack of planning by the Ministry of Planning, foresight and wisdom and all that. How can you fail to plan to save money in order to get more money in a very short time?” he said.
He added: “Allowance inside Uganda, we can freeze all those and do this as we have done previously.”
Earlier, the Principal of UPIK, Mr Bernard Ongodia, had reported that the World Bank funded them with $15.5m (Shs56.6b), which facilitated the construction of five modern workshops, multipurpose buildings, and a gatehouse, among others.
Ongodia said they need to extend the ICT fibre network to cover the entire institute. He added that with the new infrastructure and equipment in place, there is a need to fence the institute and acquire a police post.
“Your excellency, we believe that if all the above challenges are addressed, our quest to become a global reference institute for oil and gas training will be realised,” Mr Ongodia said.
Museveni said his government is going to find all the funds needed to make UPIK a fully-fledged institute ahead of oil exploration.
“We shall find funds for staff housing, ICT lab, and fence. You said that you are staying outside and the hyenas are coming and we shall hear one day that the hyena has taken one of the students. How shall we explain this? No, please. What is the money needed, we shall look for it. Because this is the only project we have in this country,” he said.
On the issue of borehole water, the President said he was going to liaise with the Ministry of Water and Environment to come up with both short and long-term solutions. He also pledged to buy the institute a bus and a min-bus and to give their Sacco Shs50m from the State House budget.
Uganda is expected to begin commercial oil exploration in 2025, with China considered to be one of the major funders among other oil companies.
Ministry of finance responds
The Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija, said the government cannot ban all travel abroad because some are very important for the development of the economy.
“You cannot ban all travel. Some government officials who travel to get money like negotiating for loans need to travel among other important things," Kasaija said.
“President Museveni did not say we would ban all travel abroad. He said some travels and he asked us to prioritise,” Kasaija added.