Members of the Budget Committee of Parliament in Uganda are seeking clarification from the government regarding the proposed increase in Uganda Airlines’ budget for the financial year 2024–2025. The Committee on Physical Infrastructure’s report on the National Budget Framework Paper for the Ministry of Works and Transport has revealed the budget augmentation.
Tony Awany, the chair of the committee, presented the report on January 16, 2024, disclosing that the government plans to inject an additional Shs34.9 billion into Uganda Airlines, bringing the total budget to Shs120.9 billion. These funds are intended for various purposes, including settling dues to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, covering employee salaries, conducting training programs, procuring aviation fuel, securing insurance for aircraft, and meeting other operational expenses.
However, concerns have been raised by MPs on the Budget Committee, particularly regarding the airline’s profitability and operational efficiency. Dickson Kateshumbwa, the member of parliament for Sheema municipality, emphasized the need for transparency regarding the government’s investment in the airline, questioning the number of shares owned, the funding mechanisms, and the planned investment over different time frames.
Members of the committee pointed out operational inefficiencies within Uganda Airlines, demanding that the government demonstrate the airline’s capability to break even before committing additional funds. Remigio Achia, the deputy chairman of the Budget Committee, expressed frustration over flight delays, citing personal experiences of up to two hours of delay with Uganda Airlines. He stated, “I have used the airline three times recently; I do not understand why they are always late; you expect to fly out at 8 p.m., but you end up flying at 10 p.m.”
In addition to the concerns about Uganda Airlines, MPs also expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s silence on key infrastructure projects such as the Kampala-Jinja Expressway and the standard gauge railway. Members believe that these projects, critical for transportation and economic development, should be prioritized over non-essential allocations within the Shs1.83 trillion budget allotted to the Uganda National Roads Authority.
Moses Magogo, the MP for Budiope East County, drew attention to the congestion and safety issues on the current route from Kampala to Jinja, a journey that takes more than five hours. He questioned why the Kampala-Jinja Expressway, a potential solution to these problems, was not identified as a priority in the budget.
Legislators expressed dissatisfaction with the allocation of funds for non-essential projects, such as the Shs5 billion intended for road user education and behavior improvement. The ongoing discussion in the Parliament reflects a broader concern among MPs regarding the allocation of resources and the prioritization of projects in the national budget, raising important questions about the fiscal responsibility and efficiency of government spending.