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MPs query UGX 18bn UBC revamp budget

FILE PHOTO: Uganda Broadcasting Corporation

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Budget Committee of parliament has queried the recommendation by the Information Communication and Technology Committee-ICT that Shillings 18.5 billion should be provided to complete the process of revamping the national broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation-UBC.

It came after the ICT Committee Chairperson, Annet Nyakecho told the Budget Committee that only Shillings 9.6 billion had been allocated for the recurrent and development expenditure of UBC in the 2019/2020 financial year and no money was provided for the ongoing process to revamp UBC.

Nyakecho told the committee that the exercise to revamp UBC started in 2016 and needs to be completed hence their recommendation for the Shillings 18.5 billion.

The process to revamp UBC was initiated after President, Yoweri Museveni directed the Finance Ministry to release Shillings 20 billion to kick start the exercise.

Nyakecho, who is also the Tororo North County MP, appeared before the Budget Committee to defend her Committee report on the ICT and National Guidance ministerial statement for the 2019/2020 financial year budget estimates.

She explained that Shillings 20 billion had been budgeted for restructuring, replacing old equipment, content development and administrative systems.  However, parliament cut the budget to Shillings 18 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year budget.

The Finance Ministry, however released Shillings 12.4 billion out of which Shillings 4.5 billion was used to clear debts. Nyakecho told the Committee that UBC has since its inception accumulated debts to tune of Shillings 75 billion in obligations to Uganda Revenue Authority and National Social Security Fund (NSSF) among others.

Also, Nyakecho says that among other issues, UBC is grappling with high maintenance costs resulting from the use of old equipment, which also affects the quality of its signal across the country.

However, West Budama North MP, Okoth Othieno queried how long the revamp process will take; adding that the annual allocation for the revamp exercise must be done according to the law. He also wondered whether the exercise will turn UBC into a profit making body like Vision Group where government is the biggest shareholder.

The Budget Committee chairperson, Amos Lugoloobi informed Othieno that the Shillings 18.5 Billion is a one-off payment to complete the revamp process while Shillings 4.5 billion is needed as an annual allocation for content development.

The Butambala County MP, Muwanga Kivumbi said that much as UBC is important as a national broadcaster, it must present to the committee its strategic plan to indicate how it will operate after the revamp process and how the country will benefit from its services.

The Nyabushozi County MP, Fred Mweisgye said government must invest in UBC, so that it can fulfill its mandate.

The Kasese Woman MP, Winfred Kiiza supported the revamp exercise but wants the managers to revise their work methods, which includes providing equal platform for politicians across the political divide.

The Budget Committee Chairperson, Amos Lugoloobi tasked the ICT Committee Chairperson, and the UBC delegation, which was led by Deputy Managing Director, Maurice Mugisha to return to the Committee with documents regarding the revamp exercise and UBC’s work plan for the 2019/2020 Financial Year.

Nyakecho promised to return today with supporting documents and asked the committee to approve the Shillings 18.5 billion for the completion of the revamp process.

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