Im­por­tant pre- eco­nomic & fis­cal up­date on elec­tion fi­nanc­ing not yet in Par­lia­ment

By: WIN­NIE WA­T­ERA

With just count­able days to the polling day of the 2016 gen­eral elec­tions, Par­lia­ment has been busy hold­ing ple­nary ses­sions in a bid to have all un­fin­ished busi­ness set­tled be­fore the com­mence­ment of the 10th Par­lia­ment. Par­lia­ment even ad­journed on the 24th of De­cem­ber, just a day to Christ­mas and re­sumed on the 6th of Jan­u­ary just to achieve this. It is not un­com­mon for the house to sit un­til just be­fore the fes­tiv­i­ties but con­sid­er­ing that it is an elec­tion pe­riod and Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) hope­fuls are sup­posed to be out in the field can­vass­ing their re­spec­tive con­stituen­cies for votes, I was pleas­antly sur­prised.

Photo Credit: Gilles Barbier and Heidi Sequenz

High on the agenda of Par­lia­ment these past few days have been pro­pos­als by the gov­ern­ment to bor­row var­i­ous loans for dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties. The Min­is­ter of Fi­nance nor­mally lays the loan re­quests on the floor for con­sid­er­a­tion. Iron­i­cally, de­spite the nu­mer­ous ses­sions that the Min­is­ter has at­tended and lob­bied for the loans, he/​she some­how for­got to bring the Pre- Eco­nomic and Fis­cal Up­date on Elec­tion Fi­nanc­ing as pre­scribed by the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act, 2015 in Sec­tion 19. This fis­cal up­date is sup­posed to be pub­lished four months to the gen­eral polling date of an elec­tion.

In a way, the Pre-Elec­tion Eco­nomic and Fis­cal Up­date could be equated with an elec­tion cash flow plan show­ing an­tic­i­pated ex­penses ver­sus avail­able re­sources and in­come streams. It would in­di­cate the ef­fect of the planned ex­pen­di­ture on the econ­omy, on the value of the shilling and on the gov­ern­men­t’s de­vel­op­ment plans. And be­sides, the pre-elec­tion eco­nomic and fis­cal re­port will be pro­ceeded  with a post-elec­tion eco­nomic and fis­cal up­date four months af­ter the elec­tion: which will be jux­ta­posed with the pre-elec­tion one, there­fore it is very cru­cial for ac­count­abil­ity.

Par­lia­ment, on the other hand, has also for­got­ten to call out the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance for this omis­sion de­spite the calls from some MPs on the mat­ter. Hon­or­able Ekanya dur­ing the com­mit­tee meet­ings to con­sider the Na­tional Bud­get Frame­work Pa­per (NBPF) made men­tion of this. In fact, he rec­om­mended to the com­mit­tee on Bud­get that the NBPF should not be con­sid­ered lest the Min­is­ter brings the up­date be­fore Par­lia­ment or has a con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment on why he has not pro­duced the doc­u­ment. But yet again, these were cries of a dy­ing horse be­cause the NBPF was ap­proved and it was busi­ness as usual for our es­teemed mem­bers.

Most re­cently, Par­lia­ment made a rul­ing to strike down Kam­pala Cap­i­tal City Au­thor­i­ty’s (KC­CA’s) manda­tory tax on the posters, one can ar­gue that was so be­cause it di­rectly af­fected the MPs who had to dig deep into their pock­ets. How­ever, pub­lish­ing of the up­date that is months over­due is sur­pris­ingly not on their minds. Should we con­clude that the way af­fairs are run in Par­lia­ment fol­lows the motto, “every man for him­self and God for us all” The fis­cal up­date is im­por­tant, among many things, it would help a num­ber of Ugan­dans pre­pare to deal with the state of the econ­omy that fol­lows most elec­tions. Re­mem­ber that the last elec­tions are said to have oc­ca­sioned a mas­sive draw down of the re­serves at BOU and this pro­vi­sion of the law aims to in­hibit fi­nan­cial he­m­or­rhage. Any­one re­call the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis that hit Uganda in 2011?

In­ter­est­ingly, the pub­lic fi­nance Man­age­ment Act, 2015 also does not in­ter­pret the mean­ing of the Pre-elec­tion fis­cal up­date, nei­ther does it pre­scribe re­course in the event that the sec­tion is not ad­hered to nor where it should be pub­lished. This may just be one of the rea­sons that no­body seems both­ered with fol­low­ing through with the re­quire­ment.

All re­spon­si­ble par­ties, even­tu­ally have to iron out what­ever rea­son this im­por­tant fis­cal up­date has­n’t seen the light of day, a month to the polling day of the 2016 gen­eral elec­tion as it is very cru­cial for de­tail­ing elec­tion-re­lated ex­pen­di­ture and it’s fis­cal and eco­nomic ram­i­fi­ca­tions. Also, every law should be ad­hered to no mat­ter the cir­cum­stance be­cause, then, how would any­one ex­pect the com­mon man to when the guardians of the very same law do not up­hold it?