Parliament approves Shs 40.5tn budget without debate

Deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah

Deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah

Parliament has today Friday in an unprecedented manner, passed the 2019/2020 budget totalling Shs 40.48 trillion without debate on the Budget Committee report.

The report was presented on Thursday afternoon by the committee chairperson Amos Lugoloobi as well as a minority report by Butambala County MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi.

The Shs 40.48 trillion budget is up by Shs 8 trillion from the current 2018/2019 financial year budget of Shs 32.7 trillion. The approval in a plenary session this morning chaired by deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah, came after clearance of different budget figures for expenditure to government ministries, departments and agencies ahead of the set May 31st deadline specified in Public Finance Management Act.

Contrary to standard parliamentary processes and procedure where a debate is held on reports presented before any decision is made, Oulanyah today stopped debate on the Budget Committee report despite attempts from Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi to raise queries on the police budget.

With promises to Nandala that debate on the budget estimates would come at a later stage, Oulanyah uninterruptedly steered the appropriation of figures until the final stage when the budget was passed. Following the passage of the budget, Kivumbi who was representing the Leader of Opposition (LoP) expressed dissatisfaction with the passing of the budget without a debate.

"Much as the leader of government business has congratulated the House, we do the same, but we take it with a heart of stone and it will be the first budget that was passed without debate. That, we take note and that is unprecedented and members that had opinions were not listened to and it stretched our civility to the limit. In future the biggest room in any house is the room for improvement. In our humble view we are capable of doing better and scaling to higher heights and we can do a better job than we have done today." said Kivumbi. 

Without directly responding to queries of absence of a debate, Oulanyah said it has been an abnormal year especially in regard to the consideration of budget. He blamed the abnormality to government’s mismanagement of the budgetary process. On Wednesday this week, ministry of Finance presented an additional budget full of variations between the soft and hard copies indicating more funds totalling Shs 934.4 billion contrary to the Shs 929 billion figure officially tabled before parliament earlier. Oulanyah said given the circumstances, the passing of the budget without debate was more important than following the rightful procedure. 

"Members, I share the sentiments of the acting leader of opposition, this has been a very abnormal year, a year in which I shouldn’t say more. A very abnormal year in terms of processing this budget, but I thank you for the endurance and perseverance and also for agreeing that the budget serves a bigger purpose than if we are go to through that we should have gone through. We would have had difficulties. We all know that we never had ministerial statements even a month after the deadline. I was hoping that the government chief whip when she got up to appreciate the members, could have concluded with an apology and promised to do better. To just thank when members have gone through hell..." Oulanyah said. 

Government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa apologized for the mishaps in the budget process promising that the executive is to do better in future.

"I have done two apologies during this process, and I sincerely stand here to do the final apology because we lacked in as far as the time frames are concerned and we promise to do better. I also request that the induction that we do when we have just come here [parliament] is not enough. I pray that in between the five years, we do a refresher induction such that we save on time when we come here and also improve. By we, I mean all of us members of parliament including my cabinet ministers because if one arm doesn’t do what they are expected to do, we make the other arm which is the legislative arm, also not to perform. I sincerely apologise on behalf of my team." she said.  

According to the approved budget, Shs 27.957 trillion is recurrent (Shs 10.5 trillion) and development (Shs 17.3 trillion) expenditure while Shs 12.53 trillion is statutory expenditure charged directly on the Consolidated Fund.

The budget is to be financed by domestic revenue collections amounting Shs 20.487 trillion, resources from the Petroleum Fund amounting Shs 445.8 billion, domestic financing Shs 2.32 trillion, domestic debt refinancing Shs 6.18 trillion, external budget support Shs 675.2 billion, external project support Shs 9.42 trillion and others.

Domestic and external financing constitutes 74.5 per cent and 25.5 per cent of the total resource envelope, respectively. According to the approved figures, Works and Transport sector takes the largest share of the budget with an allocation of Shs 6.4 trillion up from Shs 4.7 trillion, it is followed by the Security sector with Shs 3.6 trillion up from Shs 2.06 trillion and the Education sector allocated Shs 3.2 trillion up from Shs 2.7 trillion.

The other sector allocations are Energy and Mineral Development sector at Shs 2.9 trillion, Health Shs 2.5 trillion, Accountability sector Shs 1.9 trillion, Justice Law and Order at Shs 1.6 trillion, Local Government sector Shs 1.2 trillion, Water and Environment Shs 1.04 trillion, Agriculture Shs 1.01 trillion.

Some of the least funded sectors are Tourism with Shs 157 billion, ICT Shs 123 billion, Trade and Industry with Shs 171 billion, Science and Technology Shs 159 billion, Lands and Housing Shs 193 billion, Social Development Shs 218 billion. 

The 2019/2020 budget themed ‘Industrialisation for job creation and shared prosperity’ is structured along six major thematic areas including harnessing key growth sectors of Agriculture & Agro-Industry, Tourism, OiI, Gas, and Minerals; enhancing private sector growth and development; promoting human capital development; strengthening public sector investments and others.

The others are improving governance and sustaining security; developing a financing framework anchored on both an effective domestic revenue mobilization strategy and a responsive debt management strategy. The approved budget is to be read out to the public on 13th June 2019 by Finance minister Matia Kasaija. 

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd