GOVERNMENT SPENDS SHS 842M ON FIGHTER JET TRAINERS
By Martin Ssebuyira
Government spends at least Shs842 million every month to cater for Russian experts who are training Ugandan soldiers to fly and operate the newly-acquired fighter jets in Entebbe, our investigations have revealed.
Army sources speaking on condition that they are not named because of the sensitivity of the matter, say the Russian jets were brought with 75 experts to assist in maintaining the planes and training Ugandan army to fly the jets.
The experts are housed at Imperial Botanical Beach and Imperial Golf View hotels at the expense of the Uganda government. The Defence and Army Spokesman, Col. Felix Kulayigye, confirmed the development. “The Russian company was charged with training Ugandan forces, supply spares and maintain the jets but government provides them with accommodation and meals.”
Although Col. Kulayigye did not give details, sources revealed that the experts have stayed at the hotel for over six months now. According to a source who refused to be named, the experts are housed in the deluxe rooms at the two hotels.
A survey by Daily Monitor established that Deluxe rooms cost $120 each (about Shs308,400), a plate of food at the two hotels costs between Shs33,000 to Shs46,000 while the minimum cost of drinks is Shs2,500 and Local Hotel Tax is Shs2,000.
The hotel also puts its exchange rates at Shs2,800 per dollar that adds up to Shs384,500 per individual expert per day, making government spend Shs28 million to maintain the specialists daily. This makes a total of Shs842 millions for the 75 experts per month.
Col. Kulayigye explained that the remaining fighter jets are set to arrive in the country soon because the costs have been cleared.
Government bought six fighter jets and other military hardware worth $744 million (about Shs1.8 trillion) from Russia, attracting criticism after the Central Bank Governor, Mr Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile said he was forced to drain national reserves to buy the jets.
One of the planes recently ingested a bird at Entebbe Airport and another crash-landed but the army says the problems were fixed and the planes are in good condition. “The planes were fixed and are operating normally,” Col. Kulayigye said.
Mr Tumusiime-Mutebile said during an interview with a foreign newspaper that President Museveni’s ‘erratic’ policies and the government’s fiscal indiscipline have led to higher inflation and declining foreign reserves. He told the Financial Times that he had disagreed with Mr Museveni over the decision to spend $740 million on jet fighters, which has pushed reserves down from six to four months of import cover.
The Ministry of Defence, under President Museveni’s directive, withdrew a reported $400 million (Shs960 billion) from the Central Bank to pay for the fighter jets without parliamentary approval.