19 May 2017

Uganda: Museveni Travels On Credit As State House Runs Out of Cash

Photo: The Observer
President Museveni boarding his plane in South Africa recently.

Until a supplementary budget of Shs 23.1bn is approved by parliament, President Museveni's inland and abroad movements are curtailed, the committee on budget was told on Wednesday.

Out of the total supplementary budget required, Shs 13.05bn is for the president's travels inland and abroad: Shs 9.550bn and Shs 3.5bn respectively. In the financial year ending June 2017, Shs 56.248bn was budgeted for the president's travels and Shs 3.664bn for the vice president.

State House officials led by minister for the Presidency Esther Mbayo told MPs that funds for the various State House activities have been exhausted. It was reported that as a result, the president's recent and current travels are being financed on credit to the tune of Shs 4.4bn.

"We are supposed to facilitate the president at all times, come rain, come shine; so, we still have to have some money to see us through that period when books have closed as we wait for new books of the coming financial year [2017/18] to open," State House comptroller Lucy Nakyobe told the committee.

Some committee members, including Butambala MP Muwanga Kivumbi, Kassanda North's Patrick Nsamba, and Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Atim Ogwal queried how the money would be spent with only about 40 days to the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

Making a case for the president's travels, Nakyobe said:

"The president has been at the forefront of mobilization for transformation and poverty alleviation, and he has been moving throughout the whole country, and when he moves, we spend a lot of money through facilitating staff, buying fuel, hosting delegations."

Nakyobe explained that the time left to the end of the financial year might be short, but State House is already committed to debts over the president's inland travel.

President Museveni typically moves a lot across the country, attending events of supporters, campaigning for NRM candidates or mobilising ordinary people to engage in economic activity.

But not all MPs were persuaded by Nakyobe's explanation. Butambala MP Kivumbi wondered how an accounting officer conversant with the law on public finance could commit government to debt without following the right procedures.

"That is irregular; you cannot commit government money you don't have. If you read the new Public Finance Management Act; you did not have the money and you committed government to a debt!" Kivumbi said.

Nakyobe, however, insisted that some of the money had gone to unforeseen activities, including a donation to a fruit factory proprietor in Mbarara, the Makerere University visitation committee, and Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, among others.

"As I speak, we have a debt of Shs 4.4bn; so, we need to pay this debt and then stay with some money for the remaining period," Nakyobe said.

"We planned for 25 visits abroad but we have already done 30, consuming five extra visits out of our budget. [Planned] state visits were 15, but we have done 17," she added.

"Then we have got other services on credit," Nakyobe said in response to Kivumbi's query.

In the financial year ending June 30, the total State House budget is Shs 257.29bn, up from Shs 166bn the previous year. Before getting the Shs 257.29bn budget, State House sought and obtained a supplementary budget of Shs 49.7bn in April 2016, about two months to the closure of 2015/16 financial year on grounds that the presidential elections had exhausted their budget.

Besides the president's travels, the supplementary budget is supposed to take care of, among other things, utilities such as telecommunications, electricity and water; classified expenditure, Makerere University visitation committee and insurance for the presidential helicopter and jet.

The committee could not, however, decide whether to grant the supplementary budget request immediately, asking State House officials to return today [Friday] for more discussions.


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