KAMPALA-UGANDA/TANBULL256: Parliament has passed the 2023/2024 National Budget after a marathon sitting on Thursday, 18 May 2023 chaired by Speaker Anita Among.
Whereas the Shs52.7 trillion looks big on paper, actually, Shs21.4 trillion is set aside for statutory expenditure, which covers items such as treasury operations totaling Shs18.9 trillion, pensions and gratuity for retired civil servants amounting to Shs856.2 billion, among others.
These funds are charged on the Consolidated Fund, and MPs have their hands tied by various laws, meaning they cannot just allocate it except for those purposes already provided for under the law.
The Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs has been given Shs3.8 trillion, almost evenly distributed between recurrent and development expenditure.
Shs2.4 trillion has been set aside for the Uganda National Roads Authority, the bulk of which is for the construction of roads.
State House gets Shs417.9 billion, despite the Opposition’s vicious attempt to have it slashed down, with MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC, Kira Municipality) insisting that the allocations are unlawful.
Parliament, on the other hand, rejected a proposed provision for the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity in the Office of the President totaling to Shs8.5 billion for “curbing the vice of homosexuality and pornography among the youth.” MPs, instead, took the funds to other votes.
MPs also plucked Shs30 billion from UNRA following the agency’s failure to rapidly absorb funds allocated towards the construction of the Hoima-Wanseko Road.
There was also over provision in the Treasury Operations vote on commitment fees totaling Shs50 billion, which MPs identified and reallocated to other votes.
A police project, which in fact had already closed, was proposed to have another Shs53 billion allocated to it, which MPs rejected.
The National Agricultural Advisory Services lost Shs3 billion it wanted for purchase of milk coolers, which MPs said is a duplication since there are other agencies already doing the same.
The defence ministry lost Shs1 billion it had wanted for the construction of the defence museum, due to government policy placing a freeze on multi-year projects.
Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development wanted an increase of Shs10 billion to their workshops and seminars budget, which MPs rejected. Parliament also stopped a similar increment of Shs10 billion to the ministry’s travel inland vote.
The Uganda Warehouse Receipts Authority, an agency under Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives had a sought Shs2 billion allocation rejected on grounds of non-absorption and spending monies without Parliament’s appropriation.
Kampala Capital City Authority wins big after scooping Shs66 billion from the Uganda Road Fund to cater for the capital city’s dilapidated roads and drainage systems, which in the recent past attracted angry reactions from the public.
Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development had sought Shs30 billion to carry out ‘community mobilisation’, which MPs did not buy into. The funds were reallocated to other critical votes.
The Ministry of Water and Environment wanted an increase of Shs2 billion to finance the ongoing Wetland Restoration Activities, which MPs maintained at the allocations passed last year.
Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities lost Shs15.7 billion it had sought to finance conservation efforts, but MPs rejected the idea, saying the allocation was made because the ministry was not collecting any Non-Tax Revenue (NTR) during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that since tourism has resumed, it should be able to finance its activities to pre-pandemic levels.
The Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory has been given Shs8 billion for the construction of the National DNA Data Bank.
Domestic spy agency, Internal Security Organisation, gets Shs13 billion more to support intelligence gathering, while the External Security Organisation has been allocated Shs5 billion to support intelligence gathering.
Ministry of Health has been given an extra Shs18.5 billion for the rehabilitation and maintenance of health centre IIs and IIIs across the country.
The Opposition, on the other hand, lost all their proposals for alternative allocations, as Parliament approved the position of the Budget Committee as presented by its chairperson, Hon. Patrick Isiagi.
In a hard-hitting Minority Report, the dissenting MPs wanted Shs43 billion for ceremonies under the Office of the President reallocated to KCCA for road repairs and maintenance.
MP Ssemujju wanted Parliament to halt allocations to the Office of the Prime Minister until “President Museveni takes political action against officials” implicated in the infamous iron sheets scandal.
Speaker Anita Among, however, guided that the funds are not person to holder, and that the allocations go to the office.
Shadow finance minister, Hon. Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, faulted the finance ministry for failing to itemize and provide for activities under Statutory Expenditure, a move he claimed is intended to be used as a window of fraud.
Stand-in finance minister, Hon. Henry Musasizi, denied the claims.
Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi accused government of vouching for an overly ambitious Shs52.7 trillion budget, which he said is unachievable, but is only intended to be used as a ruse to raise the 3 per cent free hand the Public Finance Management Act allows government to allocate during implementation without prior approval by Parliament.
The budget that takes effect on 01 July 2023, is scheduled to be read by the finance minister on 15 June 2023, breaking down the approved budget into quarterly spending limits for Ministries, Departments and Agencies.