21 May 2019

Uganda: MPs Stuck As Budget Hits Shs40.5 Trillion

Parliament — Business in the Budget Committee of Parliament has stalled with MPs rocked by disagreements on whether to directly adopt an additional Shs1 trillion without having it scrutinised by sectoral committees.

The stand-off comes two days to the Thursday deadline when the committee is expected to present the Budget to Parliament for final approval.

According to national budget timelines, the committee was supposed to have tabled the revised estimates on May 15, but due to unexpected mishaps, the Deputy Speaker, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, extended the deadline.

Parliament is mandated to debate and pass the Budget by May 30 under the Public Finance Management Act 2015.

The Shs39.5 trillion budget was presented to Parliament, but with an addition, it is expected to rise to Shs40.5 trillion. The addendum is yet to be officially presented to MPs except for a copy submitted to the Office Clerk.

"We cannot discuss this matter before it is officially tabled on the floor of Parliament," Mr Amos Lugoloobi, the committee chairperson, said. "We wanted to beat the deadline and certainly we shall have to adjust [it]," he added.

A section of MPs argued that it would be wrong for the committee to process a corrigendum that has not been tabled, yet it has not gone through the committee on Finance.

"This is a legal matter, this committee has no powers legally to talk about something that is not available," Ms Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo, FDC) said.

"We don't have the mandate except if we are only chatting," she added.

Mr Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala, DP) advised against flouting the law.

"I don't know why matters are being referred directly to the Budget committee. Now agencies are finding their way out to skip scrutiny at sectoral level, direct to the Budget committee," he said.

The matter is expected to be addressed today with the official tabling of the Budget addendum.

Why Shs1 trillion addition?

Finance minister Matia Kasaija in the addendum has made fresh alterations to the main Budget suggesting new requirements that lead to a rise in the earlier proposed funds. One of the items included is a Shs105b request for a digital stamp and e-system for the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). Yesterday, the committee had scheduled to meet Ms Doris Akol, the URA Commissioner General to explain the new requirement, but the meeting flopped.

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