KAMPALA – The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, Vincent Bagyiire has revealed that the government has never funded the Uganda Media Council despite being in existence since 1995.
Bagiire made the revelation on Monday, March 9 while appearing before the Public Accounts Committee where the Ministry had been summoned to respond to queries raised in the December 2019 auditor general’s report.
In his report to Parliament, the auditor general highlighted that the Ministry of ICT received off-budget support financing to a tune of Shs110,538,800 which wasn’t paid in the consolidated fund as required by the law. The Auditor attributed the oversight to the lack of awareness of the requirement under the law and warned that unappropriated financing distorts planning and may result in duplication of activities and funding.
Responding to the audit query, Bagiire informed the Committee that these funds were from UNDP to Uganda Media Council and since Council has no vote and therefore couldn’t open an account in Bank of Uganda as a requirement to access the funds, the Ministry stepped in to help open an account on behalf of the Council and no single penny was used by the Ministry of ICT but all the funds went to the Uganda Media Council.
Bagiire also told the MPs that there was no way the Ministry of ICT could decline opening the account in Bank of Uganda because Uganda Media Council needed the funds to run its operations as the government has never funded the Council, despite Parliament enacting the Press and Journalists Act in 1995 to operationalize the Council.
The Council was established by the Press and Journalist Act, Cap 105 of 1995 with the mandate to regulate the conduct and promote good ethical standards and discipline of journalists, arbitrates disputes between the public and the media, the media and the media and the State and the media. It exercises disciplinary control over journalists, editors and publishers.
In October 2019, David Kyetume Kasanga was been appointed the new secretary of the Media Council of Uganda taking over from Pius Mwinganisa.
Asked by MPs whether the Uganda Media Council is still relevant which could explain why the body hasn’t been funded since its inception, Bagiire told MPs that the Council is important especially in the era of fake news and unlike other professions that have standards, journalists aren’t bound by any professional standards as anyone can practice journalism, making the Council an important player in standardizing journalism in Uganda.