CHOGM investigators ask: why not the national hotel institute?

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The parliamentary accounts committee investigating the various allegations on inflated and unreal expenditures incurred ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in late 2007 have raised another issue.

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The parliamentary accounts committee investigating the various allegations on inflated and unreal expenditures incurred ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in late 2007 have raised another issue. When the meeting was awarded to Uganda at the Malta Summit in 2005, the Hotel and Tourism Training Institute at the Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja promptly provided government, through the Ministry of Education and Sports with copies to the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance, with a detailed and costed breakdown of required activities and input, to train some estimated 3,500 staff in the hospitality sector.

This training was to cover freshers, mostly at the institute directly, but was also to extend to workplace-based training to staff already working in the sector. This was aimed for those in need of further skills and to give formal training to staff who entered the workplace as “jua kali” trainees, a Kiswahili expression for people who learn on the job by copying what they see. For this purpose mobile training units were to be put together and dispatched to hotels along the Entebbe–Kampala–Jinja sector, in particular to those hotels on the approved CHOGM list.

However, individuals within the Ministry responsible for the decision decided to go commercial at the time for reasons never explained nor understood by professionals, instead of building national capacity, leaving many questions unanswered since then, but finally raised now to their peril. Those making the decision notably selected a firm, which was in dispute at the time with other arms of government and in a telling development used the documents prepared and submitted by HTTI as a basis for their own deal. Officials now appearing before the parliamentary committee were hard pressed to defend the stand their ministries had taken at the time, with this particular one causing a lasting deficit in facilities and capacity at the national hotel training institute, which up to today shows consequences for the school.

Some 1.4 billion Uganda Shillings were paid to the contractors, but industry opinion then and now is that the results produced by them were wanting and no real impact was achieved, unlike if the government-owned school had benefitted from such funding. One of the parliamentary committee members was also quoted in the local media to have said: “There is no patriotism in this ministry, because they would have trained from one of our institutions, but they used UNISIS, which had no hotel training expertise.” (Honorable Nandala)

“There is a staff in this ministry who knows a lot about UNISIS and must have selected them in collusion. We refer the matter to the criminal investigation department to investigate the motive,” it was said. What could have, and in fact should have, been an exercise of concerted capacity building then, is now ending up as a matter of national shame, and it is hoped that the alleged culprits are all brought to justice.

This correspondent was chairperson of the Governing Council of HTTI at the time and is intimately well aware of the back-room maneuvers and circumstances of how HTTI was sidelined in favor of a commercial deal and has incidentally yet to hand over to a successor, as the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has persistently failed to appoint a new board, probably in the absence of facilitating legislation following the handover of the institute from the Ministry of Education and Sport to the Ministry of Tourism.

Read the original media reporting in the country’s leading daily and weekly newspapers like the New Vision, via and through the Daily Monitor via and .

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.