Parliament's Budget committee has turned down a request of Shs 5bn from officials of the under-fire National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads).
Appearing before the committee chaired by Ntenjeru South MP Amos Lugoloobi (NRM) today, Naads board Chairperson Aggrey Bagire and Executive Director Samuel Mugasi failed to convince MPs that Naads could spend up to Shs 5bn on procuring mango and orange seedlings for onward distribution among veterans, just days to the end of the 2013/14 fiscal year.
"Do you have the capacity to spend the money within one week left on this financial year?" asked MP Lugoloobi.
In response, Mugasi said: "Yes we shall be able to spend that money once approved because we are just going to use it to pay the suppliers who gave us the orange and mango seedlings which we distributed to the veterans."
His response was, however, rejected by the MPs. They argued that Naads had no business attending to veterans. They said there was a "special" and "cheap" arrangement under which veterans were being catered for.
"Which veterans are the officials from Naads talking about? Because the veterans I know are under another special arrangement which is cheap," said Bukooli North MP Bakka Mugabi.
Lugoloobi, the committee chairperson said, "I have never received any penny for veterans from Naads in my constituency; so I doubt whether your claim is the truth."
Asked for the "list of all veterans who have benefited from the Naads scheme," the officials simply said: "They distributed 300,000 seedlings of mangos and 300,000 seedlings of oranges to veterans."
MPs said it was difficult for them to approve Naads entire supplementary budget of Shs 30bn for the outgoing fiscal year 2013/14, yet the president is vowing to suspend it anytime.
"The president is ever complaining that Naads has performed badly over the last so many years and he has said that he is going to suspend it; so how can we give you this supplementary money?" said Dokolo MP Cecilia Ogwal (FDC).
Asked to comment about the president's remarks, Bagire said: "The president might be right because the design of Naads is not appropriate and it has a problem, but it also operates under a lot of stress."
"It's overstretched because it is supposed to be advisory, but it has overtaken all the pillars in agriculture," he said.