Uganda has fallen behind in payments due as part of international agreements on tourism.
Maria Mutagamba, minister for Wildlife and Antiquities, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that dues are owed to the Lusaka Agreement: “Uganda has not paid all of the Lusaka Agreement dues and this is because the figure was set high.” The Lusaka Agreement sets up an international task force to control illegal trade in wild fauna and flora.
“They expect us to pay $150,000 annually which is quite high per our standards,” she added. But Mutagamba said that Uganda is paying off its arrears to the organization gradually.
Uganda is also seeking to negotiate the lowering of subscription fees to International Tourism organizations, the minister said.
Uganda’s Auditor-General in a report presented to Parliament on the 6th of January 2016 noted that the Tourism Ministry is indebted to two International Organizations to the tune of UGX5.62 billion shillings ($1.49 million).
The Lusaka Agreement is owed UGX 4.9 billion ($1.14 million) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization is owed UGX 661 million ($190,330) in unpaid annual subscriptions.
The Lusaka Agreement that provides for setting up of a permanent task force came into force on Dec. 10, 1996 with the ratification by four signatories.
Currently, there are ten parties to the agreement including the Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, the Kingdom of Lesotho, South Africa, Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Swaziland.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization has 157 members including Uganda.
Both organizations run cooperative enforcement operations directed at illegal trade in wild fauna and flora, and the implementation of global codes of ethics for tourism..
The Auditor-General noted: “Unpaid annual subscriptions limit participation of the country in tourism activities by the organizations and may lead to suspension of membership.”
Vincent Opyene, a Wildlife Crime Investigator, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that the non-payment could affect the organization’s ability to be carry out its mandate.
Minister Mutagamba who is to take over the chairmanship of the Lusaka Agreement at the next meeting expected to take place in May 2016 said: “I have already submitted proposals on how to run the institution to avoid accumulating debts. “
Currently each member state to the Lusaka Agreement pays an annual fee of $150,000 which Mutagamba says should be reduced to $50,000.
She proposed that officials from each country should stay in their home countries instead of being transferred to Nairobi and paid expatriate salaries. “We feel that if they return home and work for both their governments and the Lusaka Agreement, while earning local salaries, that will also reduce our costs drastically.”
Minister Mutagamba also proposed that the secretariat should be in the country of the current president, and the head of the secretariat should be the permanent secretary of the Tourism Ministry for the period of the presidency.
Mutagamba also proposed that the Lusaka Agreement should find its own funding. “As of now we have not been very aggressive in looking for funding, yet globally there are funds that can be tapped into.”
But an official of the Lusaka Agreement secretariat, speaking to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, said that suspension is not an option for an organization with so few members.
Instead, a plan should be set up enabling members to pay off arrears.
He added that Mutagamba’s proposals would be considered by the full organization at the next meeting.