Pope Francis could use the same vehicles he used during his last visit to Uganda, when he returns to the country next year, according to Willis Bashasha, the Acting Secretary in the Office of the President.
The vehicles, a Kia Soul Hatchback and a Mitsubishi L200 pickup Papal Mobile-modified open top were purchased at USD 35,940 (135 million Shillings) from M/s Motor Center East African Ltd and USD 50,631 (190 million Shillings) from M/s Victoria Motors Ltd respectively.
The Holy Catholic Father Pope Francis is expected to re-visit Uganda next year in July following his acceptance of an invitation extended to him by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), a bloc of African Catholic Bishops, which will converge in Uganda to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
SECAM was midwifed in 1969 out of the Second Vatican Council resolution to build a structure to bring together Catholic churches on the continent. Pope John Paul VI presided over SECAM’s inauguration during his maiden trip to Africa in 1969.
Bashasha told the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament that his office had received the report on the papal motor vehicles from the Works and Transport Ministry which have since been entered into the Asset Register for the President’s Office.
The matter came up during a discussion on queries raised by the Auditor General in his audit report for the financial year 2015-2016, indicating that there was no report on the acquisition of the vehicles despite evidence on the transfer of finances for the same by the Office of the President to the Ministry of Works and Transport.
“A review of the Ministry Assets Register did not have the said cars, an indication that the Office of the President does not own the said vehicles. I was not able to physically inspect the said vehicles to confirm their existence,” the report reads.
But Bashasha said that the vehicles are available in the pool of the Office of the President and that the modifications works that had been put on them earlier have been removed and can be used for other purposes. He says that the vehicles were on November 18, 2015, returned to the works ministry after their use by the Pope and registered as UG 2519C for the Kia closed car and UG2520 for the open Mitsubishi L200 open car.
Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga had earlier tasked officials from the Office of the President to account for the money spent on vehicles and explain their whereabouts.
PAC Chairperson Angelline Osegge asked whether the vehicles were to be used again on the Pope’s second return and plans by the President’s Office. Bashasha explained that the vehicles could be used again depending on the security requirements.
Pope Francis was in Uganda for a three-day official visit in November 2015. He was the third Pope to visit Uganda after Pope Paul VI in July 1969 and Pope John Paul II in February 1993.