A different Law on Supplementary expenditure won’t Cut it
The concept of supplementary schedules is not a foreign one. Supplementary budgets come in phases and that is why they are called schedules as well. They are laid before Parliament by the government for activities for which the amount appropriated during the official budget allocation was not enough or in any case – need arises for an activity for which no money was allocated.
These always come much later after the passing of the budget, for example, there were three 2014/15 supplementary schedules that were laid in March, June and July this year. All supplementary schedules are more or less governed by four rules, rules which are provided for by the law like the Budget Act, Public finance and Accountability Act and also the recent Public Finance Management Act. Subordinate guidelines and regulations are sometimes prepared to further regulate aspects of supplementary schedules.
The rules are basically that the activities cannot be virements, this literally means that Ministry of finance cannot transfer items from one vote to another. The requests can’t be transferred to the next financial year and they should be unforeseeable. The Budget Act also stipulates that the request cannot exceed 3% of the total approved budget without prior approval of Parliament.
One can say, Government through the Ministry of Finance, planning and Economic Development has been grappling with abiding by the rules. This is evidenced in the 2014/15 supplementary Schedules currently in the Parliamentary Committee of Finance. Some of the activities for which supplementary schedules are requested are foreseeable; transferred from unspecified entities; and over and above exceed the stipulated 3% as pointed out by the minority report by Hon Cecilia Ogwal, Dokolo Woman MP.
Among other activities the report asked Parliament to reject the request for a Ugx 3.2 Billion supplementary for fuel and medical services for UPDF because it is already covered for by article 10 of the Addendum of the Status of Forces Agreement signed on 15 April 2014. The Ugx 78.1 Billion for mandamus orders and Ugx 10 Billion for AGOA.
She also mentioned in the report the possibility of seeking leave of parliament to introduce a private members bill on the issue of supplementary budgets. Without mincing words she said Government had capitalised on several constitutional provisions and ignored all subsidiary laws in relation to supplementary schedules. Not such a bad idea, come to think of it is a good. However, it is more of a means to an end rather than an end in itself. The law she intends to introduce doesn’t guarantee that it will not be ignored, in the event that the motion will be approved; remember the Presidential Transition Bill?
At the end of the day, all that matters is if the Members of Parliament meant to approve the supplementary expenditure have the integrity to stand by and uplift the laws that guide the process. Also, they need to remember they serve the interests of the people; Sovereign power lies with the people, represented by the Parliament and the people need Parliament not crumble at the demands of government by ignoring laws meant to make operational, the constitution.