Civil society is calling on the government to reallocate part of quarter four (Q4) funds in the 2019/20 budget from non-priority activities towards COVID-19 pandemic response plans.
The Civil Society Budget Advisory Group (CSBAG) says the over Shs 200 billion which was allocated for luxurious activities like gym memberships for civil servants and MPs and entertainment should go towards procuring equipment and facilitating health facilities to handle the coronavirus pandemic which is ravaging all nations across the globe. As of March 30, there were 724,592 confirmed coronavirus cases in the world with Uganda registering at least 33 confirmed cases.
The Health ministry had asked for Shs 25 billion for the country's COVID-19 preparedness phase. However, only Shs 5 billion was released by the government. The ministry now needs over Shs 100 billion for its response plan.
CSBAG executive director Julius Mukunda says that while the country waits to get support from international agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the government needs to start collecting all monies that were allocated for non-essential activities and use them to enhance the country's capacity to fight COVID 19.
"Shs 205 million is expected to be dispatched for welfare entertainment and donation in the 4th quarter only. These are monies we now need to begin to serve so that we can deal with this particular crisis. We had another Shs 7bn in the budget for gym facilities. These are some of the things we need to bring back. There is so much we can save to help ourselves even before anybody else helps us," said Mukunda.
Civil society also wants the health ministry to send all grounded vehicles at the headquarters in Kampala to different districts to serve as ambulances. In addition to this, they want the government to recapitalise the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) to enable the production of essential products like hand sanitizers during the time when the country is battling the spread of the pandemic.
Mukunda says that the government should inject Shs 300 billion into the bank to help keep businesses afloat. He, however, stresses that while money is being given to local business, monies should be given to only creditworthy operations.
"Only creditworthy businesses, we know this the time for crooks to take advantage of this. Go to UDB and say I am going to supply beans, I need a loan of Shs 100bn and they end up disappearing. I think we should ensure that in doing so we provide credit-worthy businesses and we know that those businesses are there." added Mukunda.
Last week, the ministry of Finance hinted at allocating more money through the Uganda Development Bank to enable it to support small-medium enterprises during the COVID-19 outbreak. Several businesses have laid off some staff or closed altogether as the pandemic takes a toll on the economy.