Parliament has authorised supplementary spending amounting to Shs 3.81 trillion for COVID-19 related interventions, stimulus packages for the economy, security interventions and other ongoing contractual obligations.
The government in its request, stated one of major reasons for its demand for a supplementary was the decline in revenue collections of Shs 1.8 trillion due to the pandemic among others.
The Budget Committee, chaired by Hon Patrick Isiagi Opolot, endorsed the supplementary request with adjustments after consulting with various Ministries, Departments and Agencies which are to implement the activities.
On the other hand, Hon Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, the shadow finance minister and also Butambala County MP presented a minority priority, saying that the supplementary estimates should be backed by evidence of the source of funding and be carefully scrutinised.
He said that finance ministry had presented broad areas as source of funding namely budget suppression, domestic borrowing and external funding.
“The committee requested the ministry to present the suppressed budget for scrutiny but it had not yet been availed; my reason for contention here is that suppressing a budget is encroaching on the powers of Parliament to appropriate,” Muwanga Kivumbi added.
Muwanga Kivumbi held that the committee needed to critically analyse and scrutinise this suppression of Shs1.2 trillion to ensure that the law was not abused.
“This has become the norm annually for the government to put in requests for supplementary expenditure. We change the budget cycle to make sure the budget is approved by 30th of May so that by 1st of July the ministry has money to spend,” he added.
However, Muwanga Kivumbi said that by 1st July, the ministry has made it the habit to evoke the provision of three per cent in the Public Finance Management Act to spend a supplementary budget when the year has just begun.
Muwanga Kivumbi suggested that the authorisation of the supplementary be stayed until the committee has been granted time to carefully scrutinise it and make sure it conforms to the law.
He added: “In the supplementary budgets, the technocrats in the ministry exercise desecration and bring accounting officers to their mercy to access funds for their dockets”.
He further stated that there are companies like Events Association Uganda that are supposed to benefit from the supplementary through donations from government, referring to the act by the company owners benefiting from the donation as a ‘total lack of patriotism’.
“Some of this money aimed to support the supplementary is going to come from borrowing meaning we are borrowing to make certain people comfortable,” he added.
Muwanga Kivumbi talked about the Atiak Sugar Factory, a beneficiary of the supplementary continuing to unfairly draw from resources from government.
He said that government had so far invested Shs 170 billion in Atiak whereas the other shareholders who hold a 60 per cent stake had invested a combined Shs 120 billion.
“These people are seeking an additional Ush108 billion investment from the government yet the country continues to hold a minority stake in the company,” Kivumbi added.
He recommended, in support of the majority report, that the money that goes into the Atiak Sugar Factory increases the equity of government and therefore, takeover the company.
In response, state finance minister for general duties, Hon Henry Musasizi, said the need for the supplementary is to cover for the unforeseen issues arising which are unavoidable in nature.
He said that the funding constraints were enhanced by the pandemic of COVID-19 and that substantial funding would go to the interventions related to the pandemic.
Musasizi further assured Parliament that the supplementary request fully complies with all the legalities entailed in the Public Finance Management Act and promised to engage the MPs concerned with the matter.
However, Hon Muhammad Nsereko (Ind. Kampala Central Division) said that the ministry’s role is to move in its excess money from its collection to fund unforeseen priorities; “The question is where did the money come from?”
Nsereko also asked government to review the matter on management of Atiak before proceeding to spend more money on it.
The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among said that the money is going to the Uganda Development Corporation and not Atiak.
She, however, asked the minister takes up recommendations brought forward to him by the majority report of the Budget Committee.