UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | Lawmakers on Parliament’s Budget Committee have raised governance and accountability concerns over the Ugandan government’s allocation of USh86.4 billion ($23m) in funding for the construction of a conference hall at the Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel, which is owned by businessman Sudhir Ruparelia.
The concerns have stalled approval of the USh1.316 trillion supplementary expenditure that the government spent without prior parliamentary approval.
The allocation request was made as part of preparations for the hosting of the Non-Alignment Movement Conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel, but the funds were rejected by Parliament in May 2022.
The MPs have accused the Ministry of Finance of disregarding appropriations made by Parliament and disrespecting the decision of lawmakers by using a backdoor to give the funds to Sudhir.
The MPs cited article 156 and article 2 of the constitution, which states that the Ministry of Finance can only spend over what has been appropriated if the funds are insufficient, or if they are to be spent on any purpose parliament didn’t address.
However, in May 2022, Parliament rejected the injection of funds into Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel.
Leading the protest was Fox Odoi (West Budama North East) who argued: “The people at the Ministry of Finance consider themselves to be super human. They have reached the realm who are like small gods. And I am afraid they are transitioning into God, the same way they disregard appropriation made by Parliament.”
Agnes Apea (Amolatar DWR) also asked: “What are we really doing here? We tell you don’t do this, you go ahead and do it and then you pass behind and come back to us and you come back to us to come back and sign with the same thing we said no, this isn’t our priority, our priority is service delivery. What has Munyonyo got to do with my people in Amolatar? This is unacceptable.”
The government has been urged to carry out a valuation to determine its equity contribution to Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel.
Opposition MPs have written a minority report on the 2022/2023 national budget, warning Parliament against approving USh86.4 billion to Sudhir until the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) nominates a board representative, and the government furnishes Parliament with the most recent annual report and financial statements of the resort.
Minister of State General Duties, Henry Musasizi said: “We take note of Parliament’s concerns on the need to carry out valuation to determine Government equity contribution in Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort. Accordingly, we have tasked UDC which is the Government’s investment arm to take stock of all Government’s ventures and provide a report to both cabinet and parliament.”
Uganda is set to host the Non-Aligned Movement summit from 4 to 7 December 2023, but no conference facility can accommodate more than 3,000 expected delegates from 120 member states and 17 observer countries.
This prompted the government to enter into a joint venture agreement with Meera Investments Limited owned by Sudhir, which will construct and operate the convention centre for hosting the summit.
The Ministry of Finance has revealed that the construction works will cost $50m, but the government is expected to inject $30.9m and Sudhir the remainder.
Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel comprises 60.2 billion shares, of which the government owns 15.06 billion, while the rest is owned by Sudhir, his wife Joytsna Ruparelia, and their property investment company, Meera Investments Limited.
The facility has over the years been riddled with critical governance and accountability concerns regarding the funds that the government has injected into the facility.
For instance, the failure by the Ministry of Finance to convert USh14bn ($3.7m) that was spent in 2006 to construct internal driveways, a parking yard, and rehabilitation of a marina at Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel into shares.
The opposition MPs warned that it would not be prudent to allocate funds towards a perennial loss-making company, and any additional allocation of funds would risk enriching other related parties of the company, including Speke Hotel, Kabira Country Club, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Crane Management Services, Premier Academy, Goldstar Insurance Company, Kampala International School Uganda, and Rosebud Limited.
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