A dif­fer­ent Law on Sup­ple­men­tary ex­pen­di­ture won’t Cut it

By: WIN­NIE WA­T­ERA
The two were presenting the request for a supplementary budget tabled by the Ministry of Finance at the beginning of March

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.