The ministry of Gender is finalising plans to regularise the occupancy of Nommo Gallery, the executive director of Uganda National Cultural Centre, (UNCC), Mr Francis Peter Ojede, has told Parliament.
Appearing before the House Committee on Gender last week, Mr Ojede said they embarked on getting the value of the place and property in order to set new terms on how much they would charge its occupants in rent.
This, he said, would solve the outstanding dispute between UNCC, which manages the gallery, and its current occupants over non-payment of rent.
The centre collects Shs1.8 million per month from a restaurant at the gallery and nothing from Creations Limited Enterprise of Gen Elly Tumwine.
“Boundaries have been opened and valuers are now finalising the report on Nommo Gallery. We want to ascertain the actual value of the land and property [on Nakasero Hill] and we will be able to get the value bill so that we regularise the occupancy through a tenancy agreement,” Mr Ojede said.
The Parliament committee is currently scrutinising the budget framework paper for the Ministry of Gender.
The UNCC officials were answering queries from the MPs on how far they had gone in resolving the dispute between them and Gen Tumwine over accumulated rent arrears.
Gender PS Pius Bigirimana has previously said an asset audit by his ministry showed that the general has occupied the gallery, meant for performing artists, for nearly 20 years without paying rent.
Mr Bigirimana, also the ministry’s accounting officer, said the arrears had accrued to between Shs600 million to Shs1 billion.
In a rejoinder, Gen Tumwine said he had not occupied the premises for “commercial gain”.
“I was not occupying the gallery as a commercial tenant. I was there as a Patron of the Uganda Artists Association and a representative of the owners, not to work like “a paid labourer” which some people are,” he said.
Mr Bigirimana and Gen Tumwine have had a strained relationship after the latter spoke out in Parliament unfavourably of the PS during Public Accounts Committee’s investigation into the theft of donor money by bureaucrats in the Office of the Prime Minister. Mr Bigirimana was OPM PS and accounting officer.
In Parliament last week, Mr Ojede said he expected to receive the valuation report within a month to ascertain whether there is value for money or not in the current manner in which Nommo Gallery is used.
The MPs said the dispute must be solved to ensure that government benefits from its cultural buildings.
“The ministry that is under-funded can also utilise the money from the gallery,” the committee chairperson, Ms Margaret Komuhangi, said.