19 April 2017

Uganda: Shs139 Billion Budget for Special Meals, Drinks Irks Activists

Photo: MIchael Kakumirizi/Daily Monitor
Food served at a function. Activists wonder which special meals can take more funds than vital sectors of the economy.

Kampala — The Uganda government will spend more on special meals and drinks in the financial year 2017/18, an expenditure that is higher than the budget for ICT, Tourism, Trade and Industry.

According to the 2017/18 Budget estimates before Parliament, government is going to spend Shs139b on special drinks and meals, up from Shs99.4b in the current financial year. This is a rise of Shs40b.

"This leaves one wondering which special meals and drinks take resources more than those allocated to the ICT or Tourism, Trade and Industry," reads a position paper on the 2017/18 Budget from the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG).

Mr Julius Mukunda, the executive director CSBAG, describes this as wasteful expenditure at a time the economy is struggling to grow as initially projected. "Besides, it is surprising to note that in this digital era, government's budget for printing, stationery, photocopying and binding is still so high at Shs77b," he said.

The concern from CSBAG is part of what they consider a wider problem in the 2017/18 Budget estimates where expenditure on allowances, workshops, seminars, welfare, travel abroad and hire of venues will rise to Shs1.4 trillion.

This, even when government has been looking to become more efficient and cut down on such expenditure.

For the third year running, government is still not going to provide enough money to meet the arrears of private sector suppliers.

According to the estimates in what has been tabled for the 2017/18 financial year, the total stock of arrears the total stock of domestic arrears is about Shs2.7 trillion, of which the Budget will only provide Shs300.85b. Over the last one year, the government has been on the spot for partly being responsible for the collapse of some companies over failure to pay suppliers on time or even pay them at all.

The same companies that would end up creating jobs and putting this government back on track in terms of growth.

"... if the government continues to frustrate the private sector but at the same time expects them to pay taxes and provide employment to the citizens, we are set on a self-destructing course," Mr Mukunda points out.

However, the government insists that arrears have been paid. The ministry of Finance has also been insisting that government entities needed to budget better in order to ensure that arrears to the private sector had been paid. Already, in the first half of 2016/17, the government has spent over and above what it budgeted in paying arrears.

"Clearance of domestic arrears amounted to Shs105.5 billion in the first half of FY 2016/17, which was Shs28.5 billion above the programme. Nonetheless, the stock of government arrears remains high, estimated at about Shs1.3 trillion," the Monetary Policy Report for February 2017, reads in part.

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