Over 4000 Ugandan workers have lost an opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia after the Ambassador halted the job orders due to a financial meltdown at Uganda’s embassy in this middle east country.
Saudi Arabian labour companies had issued an order of 4000 Ugandans to work as maids, nurses, English teachers and warehouse workers.
Local firms dealing in labour exportation in Kampala had started recruiting the needed workers before they were learnt of the suspension.
This website a few days ago reported how Uganda’s Mission in Riyadh was undergoing tough times because of limited funding by the Ministry of Finance and as a result the Ambassador Isaac Ssebulime called off the orders because there is no money to process them in the system.
Mr Ssebulime has since written to Ministry of Gender about the embassy’s inability to process the orders until government allocates money for the embassy.
Staff at embassy had indicated that they were abandoned and left to hustle for their survival.
Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) Chairman Baker Akantambira, who travelled to Saudi Arabia to assess the condition of migrant workers observed that the Embassy is in dire state and needs urgent government intervention.
UAERA is an association that brings together all legally registered labour externalisation firms.
Mr Baker observed that the Mission has accumulated rent arrears. There is no hope for renewal.
Medical bill accumulated and now the embassy has no credit facility not even health assurance.
The embassy staff had resorted to pulling their own personal resources to send critical cases to hospital.
Migrant workers who rushed to the embassy for help have been sleeping outside for two weeks now.
The job order processing system is down for lack of money to renew the licenses and servicing.
If labour companies want job orders to be processed they must finance the embassy.
Ambassador Ssebulime has already written to Ministry of Gender to halt this business until government funds the embassy.
But shockingly government earns $1.4B from labour externalization business and most of the business orders arise from Saudi Arabia.
Through UAERA, labour companies in Uganda hard started contributing $300 to fund the Mission.
It remains a fact that government of Uganda earns $1.4 billion from labour exporting business and Saudi Arabia remains one of the bigger markets for Ugandan migrant workers.
The embassy staff wondered why government of Uganda couldn’t use some of this money to fund the embassies.
Ministry of Finance late last year issued a notice warning all government bodies against making unnecessary expenditure because government had run out of cash.
This warning affected the embassies.
A source at Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that Ministry of Finance halted funding of embassies.
“It is true government is not releasing funds until further notice. That is why most of our embassies are in cash crisis. However, our embassies have been making their own money. Why can’t government use this money to fund them?” the source said, asking not to be named fearing to be reprimanded.
This source said that for the case of Saudi Arabia embassy, the Foreign Ministry is well aware of its deplorable condition but “can’t do anything.”
The source further said that Uganda’s mission in Saudi Arabia oversees 5 countries in the Middle East.
“That embassy is overstretched but at the same time it is underfunded. So how do you expect the staff their to do work?” asked the source.
Ambassador Isaac Ssebulime didn’t respond when contacted him for a comment.
The official spokesperson of Foreign Affairs Ministry who is the Permanent Secretary (PS) Ambassador Patrick Mugoya didn’t respond to our repeated calls.
With all businesses in Uganda largely affected by COVID-19, hopes are in the labour export in which government benefits twice; creating job opportunities for its citizens and earning foreign exchange to support the economy.