Government spends Shs500m on eclipse

A woman sells special glasses to tourists in Nebbi District ahead of the viewing of the eclipse on Sunday. It has emerged that the Ministry of Tourism spent Shs510 million on the one-day event. Photo by Faiswal Kasirye.

What you need to know:

Ministry of Tourism spokesperson Vivian Lyazi says the money was worth the event and that it was spent as specified in the budget.

As the excitement over the hybrid solar eclipse wanes, it has emerged that the government spent Shs510 million to organise the eclipse viewing event at Owiny Primary School in Nebbi District.

According to the budget, the Ministry of Tourism spent Shs69 million on public awareness and publicity about the once in a life time event.

“We held a press conference at the Media Centre on October 18 to create awareness about the eclipse event at Shs2.3 million, launched a social media campaign targeting 1 million people on October 15 at Shs13.4 million, had Radio and Television Campaign from October 21 to November 2 at Shs21 million and International media familiarisation trip at Shs32 million,” the budget reads in part.

Journalists’ role
The Daily Monitor has learnt that state minister for Finance Fred Omach took five journalists from the New Vision, UBC television, NTV, WBS and an official from the Uganda Media Centre for a familiarisation trip ahead of the event but it is not clearly indicated whether he used his personal funds or money from the budget.

According to the budget, the ministry spent Shs1.5 million to invite national VIP guests, Shs4.4 million to hire tents, tables and chairs, Shs5 million for public address system and Shs1.5 million for event site decoration.

Other expenditures were on refreshments - at Shs4 million, mobile toilets at Shs4.9 million, venue branding that included banners and signage at Shs7 million and UV viewing films at Shs3 million.

The money also catered for constructing a borehole at Shs20 million, safety and security at Shs70 million, procuring a monument at Shs77 million, a mobile clinic at Shs10 million and repairing the road to the school at Shs80 million.

The ministry in the budget renovated four classrooms at Owiny Primary School at Shs52.7million, renovated toilets at Shs35 million, sensitised and mobilised Packwach community at Shs10 million.

They also improved sanitation in Packwach at Shs20 million, cleared bushes for viewing sites at Shs5 million, rehabilitated three boreholes at Shs20 million, had entertainment for Shs5 million, while Shs5 million went on coordination and mobilisation.

Ministry of Tourism spokesperson Vivian Lyazi said the money was worth the event and that it was spent as budgeted for.

“It was worth it although money reached late and some things were dropped but all the money has been properly accounted for,” he said.

Efforts to get a comment from Uganda Revenue Authority on whether government could have collected any funds during the event, were fruitless as Mr Hebert Ssempogo from the communications office requested for some time to ascertain but couldn’t answer his phones by press time.

Mr Paul Kyeyune, the URA spokesperson couldn’t answer his phone by press time.

Thousands of people on Sunday converged at Pakwach to watch the hybrid eclipse, one of the rarest types. The eclipse occurred at about 5:23pm when the moon shielded the sun and created a spectacular moment of darkness for several seconds.