The association of Ugandans living in North America under their umbrella body UNAA have confirmed that a substantial amount from a donation of the government of Uganda towards their annual activities was distributed to Ugandan communities during COVID-19.
The association gets an annual contribution of $100,000 (about Shs372 million) from Uganda government in fulfillment of a pledge made by President Museveni in 2014 towards financing of their activities, including their major convention and gatherings of communities.
This year, however, they did not hold their annual convention for which the money is supposed to be partly spent.
According to the association’s president, Ms Henrietta Wamala, the money which is termed as Community Development Fund was distributed to several Ugandans in diaspora to ease the the COVID-19 induced lockdown pressure.
“During COVID-19 crisis, we distributed the Community Development Fund (CDF) balance 2019/20 to communities and the Executive gave an accountability to members and the Ugandan Embassy of all communities that had requested and received those funds,” Ms Wamala said in the statement.
In the same statement, Wamala indicated that they were expecting funds for the years 2020/21 from government adding that the association’s executive secretary would be submitting an application for the Shs372 million ‘soon”.
“The executive secretary will send an official communication to all communities as has been the norm and mandated by the constitution and all communities that meet the CDF guidelines will be vetted by the executive and submitted to the Embassy,” she said.
Over time, different stakeholders have argued that it made no sense for government to continue giving the association tax payers’ money because such an expenditure was worthless as it only creates division within the association that should be working towards giving Ugandans and not the other way round.
In June this year, there was controversy again surrounding the money after it emerged that part of it was spent on hotel food instead of the intended purpose to support different chapters.
The rest of the money (about Shs184m), referred to as the community development fund was to be sent to the 13 chapters of Ugandans across the United States.
However, according to a June 2020 letter by the Uganda ambassador to the USA Mull S. Katende, the money was not sent. Instead, the embassy was asked by the association’s executive to send the money to a hotel, Hyatt Regency Chicago to pay for food.
Katende was responding to a query from Lango Community of North America Inc, one of the chapters that were supposed to receive the money.
A look at the association’s financial statements posted on its website gives a glimpse of where the association spends most of its money.
For the year October 2017-September 2018, the most recent figures available, UNAA says it had a total income of $250,795 (about Shs924 million). The source of the funds includes members’ dues, registration fees for new members, and sponsorships from different organizations.
The statement shows that $6,701.40 (about Shs24.6m) was spent on transport to Seattle by boat cruise. They also spent $ 33,650 (Shs123m) on the boat cruise dinner. Other eye-popping expenses include $62,714.94 (Shs230m) on entertainment.
At the end of the year, the association had spent $283,159.71 (about Shs1billion).
It indicates that it made a loss of $32,264 (Shs118m).
Fights over how money is spent at the association are not uncommon. A source intimated that some community organisations had refused to apply for the community development fund on grounds that they didn’t want to be a party to receivers of taxpayers’ money without accountability.