The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has broken silence on spending millions of shillings on foreign travel, shop http://cirnow.com.au/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/_inc/lib/tonesque.php saying it’s provided by law and that benefits of engaging international communication agencies and players surpass the cost of the trips.
The media last weekend reported that large sums of money from UCC were blown on foreign trips by its officials and other senior government bureaucrats.
UCC Communications Director Fred Otunnu told ChimpReports on Monday afternoon the regulatory body cannot operate in isolation if government is to adopt the trending international technology practices.
“The law (Section 5 (1) (Q) of the UCC Act) mandates the Commission to represent Uganda’s communication sector at national and international fora and organisations relating to its functions, recipe http://classlitigation.com/wp-content/plugins/ubermenu/pro/shortcodes.php ” said Otunnu.
He pointed out that UCC officials are obliged to attend international conferences as they also coordinate the participation of other interested groups such as MPs, http://cortrium.com/wp-admin/includes/bookmark.php academia and civil society.
Uganda, represented by UCC, is a member of several international communication organisations including Universal Postal Union, Pan Africa Postal Union, African Telecom Union, Commonwealth Telecom Oraganisation, International Telecom Satellite Organisation and East Africa Communications Organisations.
“These organisations hold meetings in various parts of the world which we are obliged to attend,” said Otunnu.
Asked why UCC officials do not attend fewer meetings, Otunnu pointed out that the conferences are very important.
“For example there are study group meetings such as ITU which are technical in nature. They are aimed at doing detailed analysis of technology, future technology and equipment numbering among other things. We have to keep up to date,” he elaborated.
“We also have conferences for peer-to-peer discussions and exhibitions of technologies. The recent ones were held in Dubai, Thailand and Geneva. You can’t develop a country’s communication technology sector without attending these important exhibitions.”
Otunnu gave the example of the GSMA, a global body that represents mobile operators worldwide and holds annual meetings in Barcelona, Spain.
The conference is usually graced by regulators and policy makers for discussions.
Government has in recent years emphasised the need for frugality in government departments especially in regard to foreign trips.
Asked to explain the travel of ministers to these conferences, Otunnu said they are obliged to attend the plenipotentiary meetings.
Then ICT Minister Ruhakana Rugunda in 2012 led the Uganda delegation to ITU World Telecommunications Development conference in Dubai and also Universal Postal Union Congress in Qatar.
His successor John Nasasira led the Ugandan delegation to South Korea for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
He was accompanied by lawmakers and other government officials who mobilised support for Uganda’s election to the body’s top leadership.
Pressed to explain how Ugandans benefit from such fora, Otunnu said the participation has seen the country secure re-election on the council of the influential ITU.
This is an agency of the United Nations (UN) whose purpose is to coordinate telecommunication operations and services throughout the world.
Uganda was as well re-elected to the African Telecommunications Union as a council member.
Otunnu said not only does Uganda’s seat on the international bodies help shape their policy decisions but also empowers policy makers, MPs and authorities to obtain a good grasp of global trends in communication.
“A good example is the study groups which enhance the technical capacity of government to understand and be part of the process that develops regulatory standards in technology. Uganda is on the top leadership of study group 17 and 18 which deal with cyber security,” said Otunnu.
Some of the benefits that accrue from strong cyber security systems, said officials, include protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction.
Otunnu stated that being a Council member of international communications organisations helps Uganda influence decision to sway technical assistance in its favor.
He cited the National Postcode and Addressing System Project being implemented in collaboration with Universal Postal Union.
The project is aimed at developing a Postcode system for Uganda; providing a standardized and accurate addresses for all dwellings; facilitating of e-commerce by ensuring that a customer who orders for goods on line (electronically), has a physical address where those good can be delivered; enabling of better tax levy especially property tax / ground rent when all the properties are easily identifiable by location and ownership; reinforcing of national and international security by easily locating premises; and ensuring better dispatch emergency services due to definite location identity by use of an address.
“Uganda piloted this project because of our participation in many meetings abroad,” said Otunnu.
He further cited the cyber security equipment established at UCC in collaboration with ITU.
The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) is worth billions of shillings.
“Here you are sure of obtaining an original and dependable system planted by certified consultants with whom ITU works,” said Otunnu.
He also said due to engagements with several agencies abroad, Uganda has been hosting many conferences here in Kampala on environment and security among others.
“In 2013, Ugandans travelled to Germany to demonstrate our ability to host the e-learning Africa Conference that would later attract over 1,000 delegates. This is good for tourism, economic growth, exchange of information and raising Uganda’s stature on the global scene.”
Regarding reports that big sums of money were paid for air tickets for travelling officials, Otunnu responded; “That’s a cumulative figure for many air tickets put in one LPO and paid off on one day. There has never been any payment of Shs 150m for a single ticket for anybody as reported by the media.”
Otunnu observed that the benefits of attending foreign functions surpass the costs of officials’ travel.