Are Ugan­dans be­ing ruled by hope? Pres­i­den­tial pledges fail to find their way to the bud­get

By: MUSA MU­GOYA

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.

President Museveni(L) hands over tractor keys to some of the beneficiaries of Presidential pledges at Kololo ceremonial grounds on Saturday(PMPU Photo)
President Museveni hands over tractor keys to some of the beneficiaries of Presidential pledges at Kololo ceremonial grounds in May 2015. Such are no longer reflected in the budget. Photo Credit: OPM

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.