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Funds, guidelines slow Fort Portal tourism city operations

Fort Portal

Fort Portal, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Fort Portal tourism city authorities are struggling to deliver services and improve infrastructure due to lack of funds and operational guidelines. Fort Portal tourism city is one of the cities that government operationalized in July.

The others are Masaka, Jinja, Mbale, Arua, Gulu, Lira, Mbarara, Soroti and Hoima cities. But the creation of the cities did not come with any special budget or guidelines on their operations raising questions about the government’s funding plan.

Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi had earlier on indicated that the guidelines would be issued even before the operationalisation of the cities. He also advised that since there was no money for the new cities, the leaders could in the meantime use the budgets approved for municipalities.

But the interim Fort Portal city mayor, Rev Willy Kintu Muhanga says that the issued guidelines were challenged in court by chairpersons of the districts that gave birth to the cities. Muhanga explains that as a result they have never held any council meeting to agree on areas that need better roads, schools and health centres among other developments due to lack of guidelines on the composition of the council.

He adds that due to lack of guidelines, he has not yet formed an executive committee that would implement council resolutions. According to Muhanga, the operationalisation of Fort Portal city led to the immediate closure of Fort Portal municipal bank accounts.

Rev Muhanga explains that they need guidelines on who should sign for the money, which can only be spent with approval from the Ministry of Finance. He says these challenges have greatly affected service delivery as they are now struggling to collect garbage from the city, maintain roads and pay staff salaries. In fact, he notes that no staff has received their salary for July.

On Tuesday, a section of business operators and residents blocked Kaboyo and Ruhandiika street roads with burning tyres and boulders saying it had become too dusty. They argued that the dust was affecting their businesses by spoiling machines and other equipment. It took the intervention of the police to calm the situation. But the interim mayor explains that the constructor, Rino Construction Limited needs about Shillings 400 million to continue with the roads’ project but they have no money.

“When I threatened to go to court so that we get clear guidelines on the operationalisation of the cities, people said I was fighting the cities. Now here we are. No money, no laws, the council is not sitting and everything has come to a standstill. I blame Parliamentarians for all this. They would have followed the law and ensured everything is in place before creating the cities,” Muhanga argues.

On Thursday, Parliament rejected a motion tabled by the Minister of State for Planning David Bahati, which sought to reallocate funds in the financial year 2020/2021 budget to operationalize the newly-created cities. The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said the Minister’s motion could not amend the Appropriation Act for the current financial year.

She said that the Ministry of Finance needed to table before parliament a law to facilitate the creation of authorities for the new cities and an amendment to the Appropriation Act. She also said that Parliament had not been availed with the list of accounting officers for the new cities who would be accountable for the funds once provided. Efforts to get a comment from Minister Magezi on the issues affecting the city have been futile.

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