22 May 2019

Uganda: Oulanyah Slams Finance for Messing Up Budget Process

Parliament — The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, has castigated the Finance ministers for frustrating Parliament's efforts to conclude the budget process by introducing new additions late.

"These are documents that should have come to Parliament on or by April 1... Today is May 21. It is not fair to Parliament, it is not... " Mr Oulanyah said.

The budget amendment, technically cited as an addendum, refers to the additional Shs1 trillion by government, which will see the National Budget rise to Shs40.5 trillion.

Mr Oulanyah made the stinging remarks yesterday while presiding over the House sitting, during which Mr David Bahati, the Minister of State for Planning, presented an amendment to the Financial Year 2019/20 Budget, hours before Parliament was expecting to make final changes and debate on the same.

Kasaija mute

Finance minister Kasaija was quietly seated next to Mr Bahati, sternly staring at the Speaker.

"I am hoping that the Budget Committee has already accessed this document because if it is coming up for the first time, Honourable minister, you know what you have done to us," Mr Oulanyah mused.

Mr Bahati quickly responded, saying the Budget Committee had received an advance copy of the amendment containing the additional Shs1 trillion, but had to wait for the addendum to be officially laid before Parliament.

Butambala County MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi drew the Speaker's attention to the law, saying the amendment was only being stampeded without scrutiny by the responsible committees, yet the deadline for passing the budget was fast approaching.

Parliament is expected to debate and pass the budget not later than May 30.

Mr Kivumbi cited the Shs105b request for Uganda Revenue Authority meant for digital stamps.

"An item of that nature has to be looked at by the sectorial committee but if you are to push it there, we cannot beat the deadline," he said.

He added: "In the Budget Committee, we do not have the requisite knowledge and skill to retrospect that item, we are constrained and Finance should be restrained from going forward to lay this kind of addendum."

The MP implored the Deputy Speaker to tell the truth to authorities in the Ministry of Finance, whose operations, he said, "make Parliament's work look shabby."

Mr Oulanyah said the ministers were acting unfairly to Parliament by submitting fresh additions to the budget only a few days to final appropriation.

He told Mr Kasaija: "... you are about to be guilty of financial indiscipline."

However, when he took to the floor, Mr Kasaija said them [Finance], were there to serve the country and the sectors would come with something that is extremely urgent.

He was ruled out of order, this time with the Speaker making clear emphasis on mandate, law and timelines in a more severe tone.

"You see, some of us may be here to serve the country but a lot more people and these MPs here are part of them who are determined to serve their country... " Mr Oulanyah charged at Mr Kasaija.

He added: "Yours is a wish and desire that you can do but for us we want to serve this country; committed, determined that this country should be served but by your methods of work, you don't seem to be portraying what you seem to believe."

He emphasised that with a law in place, "any agency that does not follow that timeline should not mess anybody else apart from itself."

The additional of Shs1 trillion was referred to the Budget Committee for possible consideration only if resources allow.

The Budget Committee has up to tomorrow to present its report to Parliament.

Background

The changes. 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.

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