Ugandan parliament fails to beat deadline for budget approval

Ugandan parliament fails to beat deadline for budget approval
Parliament of Uganda in session

Parliament of Uganda last night failed to beat the deadline for approving the national budget for the financial year 2018/2019 after a mix-up in the figures.

Following a heated debate that lasted more than three hours, with two adjournments in between, the Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah said that parliament could not approve a budget whose figures could not be reconciled.

Budget estimates for the financial year 2018/2019 increased by 962 billion Shillings in April following amendments presented by the State Minister for Planning David Bahati. The changes pushed the budget to 31.87 trillion Shillings.

Last week, the government presented a request to add a sum of one trillion Shillings to the budget estimates. This included an allocation of 500 billion Shillings for the capitalization of Bank of Uganda and another 500 billion Shillings as classified expenditure for the Ministry of Defence.

The government had also tabled an addition to the budget which sought a re-allocation of 45 billion Shillings for the completion of the Atiak Sugar Factory and another 10 billion Shillings to support Busoga and Mountains of the Moon Universities, as well as constituent College of Agriculture at Gulu University.

The government also proposed to transfer 16 billion Shillings from Mulago Hospital to the Ministry of Health. But the requests were blocked by parliament on grounds that the Budget committee was in the final stages of the process ahead of the May 31 deadline specified in Public Finance Management Act.

However, estimates presented by the Budget Committee totaled 32.367 trillion Shillings. Oulanyah faulted the finance ministry for disorganizing the budget process by sneaking figures that were not initially scrutinized, without following the right process.

Oulanyah expressed concern that some figures were still being brought to the Ministry of Public service as late as Thursday, the day parliament was expected to approve the budget. He extended the approval of the budget for 24 hours.

Finance Minister Matia Kasaija apologized on behalf of the government saying the distortions were unintentional.