Kampala — The Defence minister Adolf Kasaija Mwesige yesterday said the bigger part of the classified expenditure has been on acquisition, refurbishing and maintaining the military hardware.
The minister told the ongoing back-to-back briefings by all government sectors on the National Resistance Movement manifesto implementation that President Museveni directed at the beginning of this term the classified expenditure remains a priority because "it is spent on items that are crucial for the Uganda People's Defence Forces and national security".
Mr Mwesige said some of the equipment procured or refurbished are helicopters, marine boats, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery guns.
The proposed defence budget for 2019/2020 budget is Shs3.5 trillion and Shs1.5trillion, where 56 per cent is classified expenditure.
High costs of water and electricity also forced the Ministry of Defence to drill boreholes and installation of solar in the barracks.
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence, Ms Rosette Byengoma, said with the installation of a solar system, government saves about Shs18b.
"We have been spending Shs25.2b on electricity annually. But we are putting an infrastructure that will minimise the costs to shs7b which will also be a one-off expenditure," she said.
Ms Byengoma also said 29 boreholes have so far been drilled at a cost of shs7b in the upcountry barracks.
She also revealed that the each of the 6,000 guards recently deployed as Local Defence Units (LDUs) in Kampala and its suburbs will be paid a monthly salary of Shs200,000, increasing the defence budget by Shs1.2b.
Earlier, Mr Mwesige was asked about reports that the LDUs had started extorting money from the people they arrest at night but the Joint Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu promised the issue would be investigated.
The ongoing construction of the 250-bed Military Referral Hospital in Mbuya that will cost government Shs104b is so far 30 per cent in progress and Shs16b has been spent on the work.
"We are trying to reduce the referrals abroad. With this hospital, complicated cases such as kidney and heart conditions will be treated here," she said.
According to statistics released by government this year, government sent 5,000 people including soldiers to India for treatment at $123 (Shs455b) in 2016.Ms Byengoma said government is using part of the United Nations reimbursements for the wear and tear of the Ugandan military hardware in Somalia to construct the hospital.
Mr Mwesige also told the meeting that the plan to relocate the Airforce from Entebbe to Nakasongola was in its final stages.
"We have secured and undertook major repairs at Nakasongola Airbase runway. The runway is now operational with flights of Sukhoi and other light air crafts," he said. They have also installed air defence radars and renovated hangars.
The Defence ministry has also started constructing 30,000 housing units for the military and so far apartments in Masaka Barracks, Entebbe, Nsamizi, Gulu have been built.
Mr Mwesige also said government plans to invest shs37.8b to capitalise the financially strained Uganda Air Cargo, in order to continue with charter services.