Are Ugandans being ruled by hope? Presidential pledges fail to find their way to the budget
On 30 June 2015, the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda considered and approved Ugx 23.9 trillion budget for FY2015/2016 which is waiting for its eventual reading to the general public on tomorrow.
However, even with such huge amount of funds which is the first of its kind in Uganda’s history, various presidential pledges have not been covered. Presidential pledges are solemn promises or agreements that are made by the Chief of the Executive to his or her electorate to deliver certain social services. For the case of Uganda, fulfilment of such has not been the tradition as some of the pledges have either been fulfilled after a long period of time, partially fulfilled or unfulfilled.
For instance , out of the 7 presidential pledges made to Busitema University, only two have been partially fulfilled and the rest remain stalled, according to the presentation made to the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee of Education and Sports by Prof Mary Okwakol, the Vice Chancellor.
The unfulfilled pledges include; retooling of the mechanical workshop Ugx 4,303,000,000, procurement of a guild bus Ugx 350,000,000; staff housing units Ugx 12000,000,000; commercialization of a farm at Arapai campus Ugx 4bn and the establishment of a Marine Training School at Namasagali campus at Ugx 7,805,200,000. In response to the Vice Chancellor’s presentation, Hon. Julius Maganda, Samia Bugwe South noted: “The chief of the Executive feels so uncomfortable when we compile all the pledges for only Busia district. And when you advise him to stop pledging, he argues, it is you people who always write memos to me”.
Likewise, as per the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances and implementation assessing status of implementation of government assurances in Sironko District and Sebei sub region 2014, the President undertook to tarmac Namagumba-Budadiri-Nalungu road as well as updating of Budadiri Health centre IV to a hospital in 2001 but up to now they have not been worked upon and cannot be located in this year’s budget.
Some of the reasons as to why these pledges are failing to surface in the budgets, are simply because the budget is drafted and designed in line with the National Development Plan, and in most cases these presidential pledges are not in line with the country’s medium and long term objectives because of the lack of the coordination between the President and the sector ministries where these pledges he makes fall. That is why many of them go unfulfilled which has made the promised to keep waiting even at the extent of dying without realizing these promises.
This culture has posed far reaching negative implications on the implementation of the budget process which can best be explained by the continued supplementary budgets, in every financial year. A case in point is, in this concluding financial year, Makerere University was advanced a supplementary budget of Ugx 2.4bn to accommodate foregone fees resulting from H. E the President’s directive not to increase tuition in fulfillment of his commitment to take up the bill.
Poor service delivery has been the end result of it all in various public institutions. A public institution like Busitema University instead of devising means on how to plan for the little funds available, they keep on hoping that their promises will be acknowledged in the budget. This explains why the institution is grappling with challenges of lack of accommodation and inadequate physical infrastructures for running physical programs; operating at 29% and 28% of academic and administrative staff respectively which is due to limited budgetary provision from the government and low levels of internal income generation. This situation is not so different from Sironko’s impenetrable roads during rainy seasons as well as the poor health facilities.
And if the above mentioned pledges are fulfilled as in the case of Busitema University, they could help the institution to generate more internal revenue in form of non-taxable revenue. Although one will argue that some of the pledges are being fulfilled like provision of vehicles especially to religious and cultural leaders. The ones in key areas of infrastructure have stalled. And now that the country is approaching the 2016 general elections, presidential pledges are most likely to pile up in total disregard of the previous ones.
This system of delivering on only petty and individualistic pledges for ethnic and religious leaders instead of the vital public goods like safe and clean water, increasing agricultural funding, renovation and construction of hospitals and provision of other social infrastructure in order to foster the common good for all citizens has inevitably resulted to low economic growth leading to low levels of economic welfare and wellbeing.
Consequently, this has given rise to what I may refer to as “rented democracy” where citizens in Uganda have been seen clamoring for a quarter kilogram of sugar, salt and a quarter a bar of soap during elections instead of the candidates’ manifestos because of the biting poverty.
For the case of this article we find another form of democracy, that is hopeful democracy because even the Busitema Vice Chancellor acknowledges that only two have been partially fulfilled and as an institution, they are hopeful that the rest shall be fulfilled the same way Sironko electorates keep waiting for the tarmacking of their road and the elevation of the Health Centre IV to a hospital status.