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.
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?