Does the Ugx 847.204bn supplementary budget request by government portray its laziness and poor planning?
On 3rd march 2015, Hon. Matia Kasaija before he could even swear in as the new for Minister for finance, planning and economic development, presented a supplementary budget (Schedule No.1) to parliament amounting to Ushs 847.204bn. Of this amount Ushs 268.372bn (1.7%) is for both recurrent and development expenditure which needs appropriation by parliaments while Ushs 578.832bn (3.65%) statutory expenditure needs only revision- making a total percentage of 5.35% of the total approved budget of the current financial year.
Section 12 of the Budget Act of 2001 stipulates that the supplementary expenditure, that requires additional resources over and above what is appropriated by Parliament, shall not exceed 3% of the total budget for that financial year without prior approval by parliament. However government has always used statutory expenditure as an excuse to go beyond the 3%, because for it, it is charged directly on the consolidated fund.
The supplementary budget includes among others; Office of the President requesting for additional increment of Ugx 16.107bn, of which Ugx 6.35bn is for clearing accumulated verified arrears, 2.5bn to facilitate RDCs to monitor government projects; Ugx 171m for the treatment of senior presidential advisor on media and public relations among others; ministry of defense sought for an additional of Ugx 62bn to cater for short falls in the operations; ministry of justice and constitutional affairs requested for Ugx 22.85bn of which, Ugx 10bn is for payment of court cases; Makerere university requested for Ugx 2.65bn to accommodate foregone fees resulting from outstanding obligations from H. E the President’s directive on not to increase tuition fees and Ugx 250m for treatment of Dr. Peter Ongom.
Uganda Registration Services Bureau had a request of Shs 6.073bn for payment of rent arrears and operational costs; Uganda missions abroad also requested for 6.647bn to meet shortfalls in salaries and operational costs of the missions; treasury operations needed 403.148bn for statutory external obligations which arose as a result of domestic funding shortfall among other requests.
It would have been appropriate if supplementary budgets are requested for in the event of justifiable emergencies like disease outbreaks or hazardous weather conditions, among others because ordinarily, supplementaries are supposed to be unforeseen expenditures meant to cater for emergencies. However in most cases as sampled above, supplementary requests come as surprises because what happens to be emergencies and unforeseen expenditures are; payments for special meals and drinks, welfare and entertainment, donations, newspapers, photocopying and printing, allowances, President’s travels in-land and abroad, catering for presidential directives among others which are recurrent expenditures.
While appearing before the Budget committee last week, Hon. Aston Kajara, Minister of state (Privatization) Ministry of Finance termed recurrent and development expenditures as emergency pressures that he received from various government agencies that he had to authorize additional funding.
This request has received criticism from various lawmakers who have termed it as a political supplementary budget intended to help the ruling party to raise funds during the general campaigns. They have requested government to respect and observe the laws that governs supplementaries. As well as calling upon them to educate themselves to the Speaker of Parliament’s ruling on how Parliament shall be handling supplementaries which was issued on July 10 2014. It included the need for the Minister of Finance to satisfy the house that government has endeavoured to get resources from the Contingency Fund provided for under Article 154 of the Constitution and Section 10 of the Public Finance and Accountability Act to meet expenditures that are foreseen before presenting supplementary requests in Parliament.
The amount appropriated for any purpose under the Appropriation Act is insufficient; a need has arisen for expenditures for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by the Appropriation Act; the monies have been expended for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by the Appropriation Act; total supplementary expenditure that requires additional resources over and above what was appropriated by Parliament does not exceed 3% of the total approved budget of that financial year; the supplementary request addresses the effect it has on the financial requirements of Government for that particular financial year, and that the further disbursements are required in respect of services which- could not have been foreseen, may not be postponed without detriment to the public interest, cannot be appropriately charged to an existing item of the estimates; or would cause an excess on the estimates; the sought expenditure cannot be met by virements within the votes from items with savings.
Although that is so the case it seems the Executive have taken parliament for granted and it has become a ritual for the Executive to seek for supplementary budgets every year most especially when the country is approaching to general campaigns for example in 2010, the then Minister for Finance, Hon. Syda Bumba requested for an additional of Ushs 600bn. Unless parliament moves to stop these supplementary budget loopholes before the situation gets worse. Short of that, government will be simply serving to abet the breakdown of the country’s budgeting processes and condoning the theft of taxpayers’ money