The Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa has tipped the select committee investigating the operations of the National Council of Sports (NCS) to summon players of the different national sports disciplines, saying their experiences could cure the alleged mismanagement.
“Speak to the players, the referees and umpires, you will be shocked. You will understand their challenges with the council and the sports federations,” said Basalirwa who was appearing before the select committee as a key witness on Thursday, 14 December 2022.
The select committee, chaired by the National Woman Representative for Persons with Disabilities, Hon. Laura Kanushu, is investigating the reported mismanagement of funds at the council, following a motion moved by Basalirwa on 10 November 2022.
The alleged financial crisis, characterised by delayed releases, budget cuts has seen the national soccer team withdraw from key international contests such as, the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in early 2023 in Algeria.
Basalirwa described the withdrawal as an international embarrassment, and a move that will not only drop the rankings of Uganda Cranes internationally but also attract sanction.
“We are now facing a national scandal – that Uganda Cranes is withdrawing from CHAN. But how can we withdraw from a continental competition? This story and that of She Cranes in Australia will be big international embarrassments,” said Basalirwa.
He said he found out that the finance ministry is largely liable for the ‘crises in the sports sector, saying they do not appropriate budgets as approved by Parliament.
“The finance ministry is the becoming a very big obstacle to the sports sector, Parliament appropriates money but the ministry sits somewhere and makes budget cuts; this is unconstitutional,” Basalirwa added.
He also faulted the National Council of Sports which he said was not releasing funds to the different sports federations as appropriated by Parliament.
“We also found out that the National Council of Sports was not giving federations money as appropriated by Parliament. When they make releases they go to non-priority areas; you find payment of contractors is made promptly but financial commitments to federations were not being made promptly, yet they are key in management of sports.
The Minister of State for Planning, Amos Lugoloobi, who also appeared before the same committee said his ministry has only released 36 per cent of the budget as opposed to the desired 50 per cent release by this year.
“The ministry has so far released a total of Shs 17.61billion to the council to facilitate wages and the various sports federations. This presents 36.83 per cent of the approved budget,” said Lugoloobi.
Legislators were irked that the sports sector’s potential is being crippled and proposed that henceforth, each sports federations’ budget is ring fenced and coded at the level of appropriation by Parliament, as it was noted that currently it’s the council that decides the allocation to federations.
Hon. Iddi Isabirye (NRM, Bunya County South) said the persistent delays in release of funds is questionable since the sports calendars are static. He noted that the sports federations revealed to the committee that at times, they are forced to borrow money to participate in some crucial games.
“The federations were crying, some of them reach to the extent of borrowing money from money lenders. Sometimes players travel abroad without money, only to be provided in the middle of the games,” said Isabirye.
The committee has so far interfaced with the Federation of Uganda Football Associations, Uganda Boxing Federation, Federation of Uganda Basketball Associations and the Uganda Paralympic Committee.