State House extravagance

Extravagant, lavish, wasteful is how I describe the recent state house supplementary budget request for Shs129 billion. I have joked with colleagues that Uganda will never have a supplementary free financial year especially “state house supplementary request” until the 2nd Coming of the messiah; they are yet to prove me wrong.  A flash back at the two financial years reveals some interesting statistics.

Financial year 2012/2013 saw a supplementary request of 58.5 billion being made by state house, six months later a 129 billion request is being made by the same entity. The FY 2011/ 2012 saw three supplementary budget requests amounting to15.8billion, 92 billion and 14 billion respectively bringing the total sum of supplementary requests to a staggering 121.8 billion.

We are cognizant of the fact that the President has to perform his duties and expenses have to be met however when the expenditure becomes astronomical then as citizens we get concerned especially were we don’t feel the trickle down effect of the said monies.

It is a pity that in February 2012 the Ministry of Health was struggling to raise a mere Shs7 billion to help nodding disease victims, yet state house was asking Parliament to approve Shs92bn supplementary budget for the Presidency to be spent on special meals and drinks, welfare and entertainment, donations, and the President’s travel inland. As a result, the State House budget increased by 38 percent. This kind of hypocrisy is disgusting and Ugandans need to wake up from their slumber and smell the coffee.

It has rightly been argued by the presidential press secretary that there is nothing wrong with a government institution asking for supplementary funding since it is constitutional. However, government ought not to abuse the constitution by taking its citizens for granted. The fact remains that supplementary budgets reflect high and increasing levels of budget indiscipline by government agencies especially state house that has made it a hobby.

It has become a habit for government agencies to demand for more funds in the course of the year, in the name of supplementary budgets. The trend for supplementary budgets has been on a steady increase from 4% in 2008/09, to 7.2 in 2009/10; and to 27.7 in FY 2010/11. This trend is eroding the credibility of the budgeting process and should be curtailed.

As citizens we are concerned about the negative relationship between the rate of supplementary budgeting and Uganda’s external debt. Budget indiscipline has a direct bearing on Uganda’s propensity to borrow. It is us, and our children’s children that will have to pay for the extravagance of our leaders when debts are incurred to meet the needs of a selected few all in the name of supplementary budgets.

There is no doubt that the state house has become more of a liability than an asset to the citizens of Uganda. It’s a bottomless pit that will never be filled up. It is ironic that government has failed to pay and increase salaries for some teachers usually on the pretext of lacking resources but comfortably without shame approves supplementary budgets as and when presented by the state house.

We do not expect much parliament since the majority of MP’s come from the ruling partly and against their conscience they will approve the supplementary budget in order for them to maintain the status quo.

As the electorate we are watching, documenting and will bring you to book come 2016.

Cissy Kagaba is the Executive Director Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda

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