Security minister Gen Elly Tumwiine has said he does not owe government any money since he is using Nommo Gallery like any other artist.
Tumwiine told journalists at Uganda Media Centre yesterday that claims that he owes government money is 'hot air' as the Nommo Gallery was given to artists by the former President of Uganda Milton Obote in the 1960s and the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development now supervises it.
“I was not occupying any government facility anywhere…all that is hot air. Rent is not collected by parliament. Rent… if you default on rent, somebody is free to take me to court. I have been waiting for that court case so that they give me some money against the truth,” Tumwiine said.
Tumwiine’s reactions follow speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadag’s ‘order’ last week to the General to vacate Nommo Gallery or pay Shs 1.6 billion outstanding rent arrears accumulated since 1998.
A report to the House by the parliamentary committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development indicated that Creations Limited, a private company owned by Gen Tumwiine has been occupying Nommo Gallery since 1998 but the bush war and art-loving general has never paid rent to Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC).
The report presented to House by committee chairperson MP Alex Ndeezi (PWDs-Central) further indicated that efforts to have Gen Tumwiine pay rent arrears to a tune of Shs 1.6 billion (as of 2017) continued to be a nightmare. Moreover, each financial year, state funds are allocated for the maintenance of Nommo Gallery.
That prompted MPs to demand the speaker to direct Tumwine to pay rent arrears or to direct that deductions from his emoluments be effected to clear the debt on top of vacating the premises.
Kadaga promptly ordered the general to vacate the Nommo Gallery or pay the rent, warning that if the Gender ministry does not account for the money it has been receiving for maintenance of Nommo Gallery occupied by Tumwiine, the Gender ministry would not have its budget for financial year 2018/19 approved.
But Tumwiine said he has been using the facility as any artist, but not as his company and that Nommo Gallery has an independent director who is taking care of it.
“In the past when the artists ran away during the political turmoil, the minister of Culture sent there an overseer who was paid little money but was surviving on earth. When I was chairman of board of trustees, we put there a director. He is the one who manages all the affairs of the Nommo Gallery not my company, not Gen Tumwiine therefore there has never been an issue of rent anywhere,” Tumwiine said.
Tumwine added that parliament has no authority to collect rent but instead they should go to court to challenge his occupancy legality where he is very sure he will win the case.