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State House budget: The cost of keeping Museveni in power

Museveni at State House

Museveni at State House

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni holds the unique distinction of being perhaps the world’s most heavily advised leader, boasting an entourage of 82 presidential advisors across a spectrum of subjects, some of which seem remarkably specific, such as advice on Rukungiri district or Kigezi dioceses, and even household affairs.

In addition to these advisors, Museveni’s staff roster includes 27 senior presidential assistants, 40 private secretaries, and a domestic staff of 996 at his residence alone—comprising 59 waitresses, 14 room attendants, 80 gardeners, 129 drivers, 50 cleaners, 35 cooks, and 12 chefs, among others.

This extensive payroll incurs a staggering annual cost of approximately Shs 50 billion. Moreover, Museveni’s office of the president employs an additional 761 individuals. Such spending comes under scrutiny, particularly in light of Uganda’s current financial landscape, characterized by debilitating debt and international sanctions, notably from the World Bank due to the recent passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Kira Municipality Member of Parliament Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, who also serves as the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) whip in parliament, asserts that Museveni must reduce the country’s expenditures on his personal staff and advisors to mitigate the financial crisis. In a detailed 116-page document summarizing the State House and Office of the President’s ministerial policy statements, Ssemujju paints a grim picture of Uganda’s economy.

According to the Bank of Uganda’s State of the Economy Report from April 2023, the nation’s total debt (external and domestic) as of March this year stands at Shs 85.2 trillion, significantly exceeding its annual budget of Shs 52.7 trillion. The ministry of Finance reports that the total debt amounts to Shs 80.7 trillion (approximately US$21.7 billion), comprising Shs 47.7 trillion (US$12.8 billion) in external debt and Shs 33 trillion (US$8.8 billion) in domestic debt.

Furthermore, Ssemujju highlights the urgency of servicing this debt, with interest payments for the current financial year reaching Shs 6.1 trillion on loans from local banks and another one trillion shillings for external loans. This does not even account for the principal repayments of Shs 2.7 trillion for external debt. He contends that Uganda’s financial stability is critically dependent on concessional loans from institutions like the World Bank and warns against resorting to commercial banks, which levy exorbitant interest rates.

Ssemujju concludes that given the precarious state of Uganda’s finances, it is both irresponsible and inaccurate to claim that the country could weather the storm without external financial assistance. Thus, he calls for immediate and significant reductions in the fiscal allocation for President Museveni’s personal staff and advisors.

“Our total debt (external and domestic) as of March this year is Shs 85.2 trillion according to the Bank of Uganda State of the Economy April 2023 Report and our total budget is Shs 52.7 trillion. Ministry of Finance puts the total debt at Shs 80.7 trillion (US$21.7 billion) of which Shs 47.7 trillion (US$12.8 billion) is external and Shs 33 trillion (US$8.8 billion) is domestic.

The interest on money borrowed from local commercial banks that is due this financial year is Shs 6.1 trillion. Interest on money borrowed from external sources is Shs 1 trillion. It is not only interest that we are paying. This financial year payment of the principal on external debt is Shs 2.7 trillion. For domestic debt, we don’t have money, but we will borrow Shs 8.3 trillion from the same lenders to pay the old debt before we pick fresh ones...

It is, therefore, irresponsible and inaccurate to say that Uganda will survive without World Bank funding. Losing concessional loans, means resorting to commercial banks and moneylenders who charge high interest rates,” Ssemujju said.

In light of the 2023/4 fiscal year projections, the Uganda Revenue Authority is expected to amass Shs 29.6 trillion in revenue. Alarmingly, this figure covers only 60 percent of the budget earmarked for loan repayments.

“It’s startling to observe that our nation allocates Shs 7 trillion for wages and Shs 13 trillion for miscellaneous expenditures against program implementation costs of Shs 14 trillion,” stated Ssemujju.

“To put it bluntly, this is akin to planning a wedding with a budget of Shs 14 trillion and paying the organizing committee Shs 20 trillion. This is the economics under President Museveni’s administration.”

In response to the World Bank’s decision to suspend loans to Uganda, President Museveni contended that the nation could sustain itself without external financial aid, urging the country to “live within its means.”

Consequently, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja announced that she had been directed by the president to revise the 2023/4 budget to compensate for the fiscal gap created by the World Bank’s withdrawal. However, Ssemujju argues that the initial focus for any budgetary adjustments should be the State House and the Office of the President.

He maintains that before considering other avenues, scrutinizing the spending on the president’s extensive personal staff and advisors would be a prudent first step in addressing Uganda’s precarious economic situation.

“The president’s convoy now exceeds 60 vehicles, while his son, Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, maintains a fleet of nearly a dozen vehicles, complete with amenities akin to those of his father’s convoy. Janet Museveni, the president’s wife, also has her own convoy with similar facilities. This isn’t the representation of leaders governing an economically challenged country reliant on unpayable loans; rather, it resembles the grandiosity of kings, queens, and royalty,” observed Ssemujju.

“This extravagance was further accentuated at their recent wedding anniversary, where their guests of honor were Nigerian chiefs, known for their own opulence. Clearly, President Museveni and his family aspire to rival such monarchial splendor.”

Ssemujju’s scrutinizing analysis of policy statements reveals that the Office of the President employs a substantial workforce of 761 staff, including 82 presidential advisors, 142 resident district commissioners (RDCs), 98 deputy RDCs, and 27 senior presidential assistants. Moreover, Ssemujju questions not only the large size of this staff but also the apparent lack of clear guidelines for their recruitment, qualifications, and remuneration.

According to these policy statements, salaries among presidential advisors vary wildly. For instance, President Museveni’s brother, Caleb Akandwanaho, also known as Salim Saleh, earns Shs 17 million, while Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda receives Shs 20 million. For this fiscal year, Uganda is slated to expend Shs 25.3 billion on salaries and wages and an additional Shs 5.4 billion on staff training within the President’s Office alone.

Special presidential assistants, such as singer Catharine Kusasira, are also beneficiaries, earning up to Shs 2.5 million per month. The government further incurs costs on vehicles, drivers, escorts, fuel, rent, and other recurrent expenditures for the RDCs and some presidential advisors. The Office of the President operates an astonishing fleet of 400 vehicles, each ranging in cost from Shs 50 million to Shs 200 million.

In light of these facts, Ssemujju advocates for a thorough re-evaluation of this spending, especially given the country’s precarious financial standing and increasing national debt. Aside from the 400 vehicles maintained by the Office of the President, State House, the president’s official residence, boasts an additional fleet of 266 vehicles. Notably, 71 of these are dedicated solely to President Museveni’s convoy for domestic travel.

President Museveni's convoy

While the State House policy statement provides a cost range for these vehicles—between Shs 150 billion and Shs 500 million—the actual costs of the president’s personal vehicles remain undisclosed.

“In a matter of a few years, the vehicular assets of State House have seen a significant increase. According to the Ministerial Policy Statement for the Presidency for the fiscal year 2018/19, the tally stood at 195 vehicles. By 2021/22, this number had escalated to 266. Furthermore, vehicles designated for the presidential convoy grew from 33 in 2018/19 to 68 in 2021/22,” noted Ssemujju.

“Moreover, annual expenses on vehicle maintenance were Shs 7.2 billion in 2018, while fuel costs—subsumed under inland travel expenses—total Shs 80 billion each year.”

Among the 996 employees at State House, Uganda allocates an annual Shs 47.7 billion for salaries and allowances, all part of the Shs 410 billion budget for State House this fiscal year. In an interview with The Observer, Ssemujju argued that before Museveni considers salary cuts for public servants, he should first scrutinize the exorbitant spending at his own residence and office.

“Before we even talk about wider fiscal reform, the wastefulness begins with the president. Salim Saleh, for instance, is essentially a distributor of money; why should he be on a salary? State House employs more wait staff, cooks, and gardeners than the largest hotel in Uganda. Moreover, we continue to remunerate former prime ministers like Kintu Musoke and Ruhakana Rugunda as presidential advisors. This is simply indefensible,” Ssemujju said.

When questioned about parliament’s own lavish spending, Ssemujju concurred that reform was essential.

“With 529 MPs, our parliament is excessively large; a more reasonable size would be around 200 members. I had previously suggested that government officials should purchase their own vehicles, but the proposal was overtaken by the minister of Public Service, Muruli Mukasa, and never revisited. Rest assured, once we begin to reform the presidency, it will set the precedent for institutional change across the board,” Ssemujju concluded.

STATE HOUSE RESPONDS

Faruk Kirunda, deputy presidential press secretary, argued that Ssemujju, who serves both as a member of parliament and an investor, should acknowledge the stability brought to Uganda by the NRM government, which has facilitated his significant investments.

“Let’s be clear: Ssemujju should reflect on his journey before entering parliament and recognize how the current administration has transformed Uganda,” Kirunda stated, without elaborating on the nature of Ssemujju’s investments. Kirunda further questioned Ssemujju’s understanding of the intricacies of governance.

“Is Honorable Ssemujju fully aware of the president’s roles and responsibilities? Does he understand the operational dynamics of State House and its distinct functions compared to the mainstream government? Is he informed about the oversight performed by State House staff who support the president, as well as the broader civil service whose work they verify?”

Kirunda emphasized that Ssemujju, given his parliamentary experience, should be familiar with the constitutional role of resident district commissioners (RDCs).

“Has Ssemujju ever proposed a private member’s bill to abolish this office? Does he comprehend the Constitutional mandate of RDCs, or does he not have faith in the very constitution that enabled his election?”

The deputy press secretary also challenged Ssemujju’s understanding of the advisory role within the presidency.

“Who led Ssemujju to believe that presidential advisors report directly to the president? In reality, they report to the minister for the Presidency, who is their immediate supervisor.”

Kirunda closed by cautioning Ssemujju to educate himself on governmental operations before making such claims.

“Honorable Ssemujju, whom I hold in high regard, should take time to understand these structures before commenting. If he struggles with internal party issues within the FDC, it’s doubtful he would grasp these governmental complexities,” Kirunda concluded, hinting at Ssemujju’s recent conflicts within the FDC over allegations of financial impropriety in the 2021 general elections.

bakerbatte@gmail.com

Comments

+2 #11 Akot 2023-09-06 11:15
Lakwena, thanks.

Museveni owns Uganda & it's Ugandans & want him to do so, reason they are still powerless tribally divided ruled & go for fake elections every 5 years to ensure they have him officially, legally, constitutionally, knowing it's the only way they can keep him on & just wait for the son to replace the dad!

Not even Bobi Wine dares call for an end to the tribalistic system & to UNITY, so how will he ever replace chief tribal leader Museveni, winner of fake presidential elections?

Which so called opposition leader can walk freely on any tribal land as migrant Museveni does?

It's Ugandans keeping Musevni on by all means, right?

Unless Ugandans become ONE PEOPLE, the only replacement is Museveni's son or another migrant taking over!
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+6 #12 Immaculate Nambi 2023-09-06 11:45
"Semujju...should reflect on how the current administration has transformed Uganda", says Farouk Kirunda.

Wow, just wow! Lost for words.

Can the current administration give Ugandans a fee note so that we can pay once and for all? Because, what in the world is this?!
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+9 #13 Kidepwe 2023-09-06 12:22
Clearly, it's Museveni, who IS AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE PROBLEM. For this country, and her citizens.

The bloated amounts of money this country spends on him and his family, isn't the only instance of his failed leadership.

And for as long as he continues being around and in power, there will be worse to come, for the citizens of this country.

It will be a long long time after he has gone, that things might become a bit better, hopefully. Otherwise...we are in deep trouble for generations to come. Because, this kind of injudicious spending is never tenable.
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+10 #14 Jose 2023-09-06 13:27
I have with all the patience one can think of read what fools like kirunda, who hang around m7 think. Now the small brain sees a lot of importance in Nakadama, mbu minister for presidency,

Can kirunda tell us what, or where or why the brother is always distributing money,

A fool is a fool kirunda oswaza, well while u are pretending, The real President is visiting the population accross the country, n for semuju, oyo ate muveeko he is a class apart , we stay waiting for news from ssemujju, not kulayije, not opondo, but semujju, or senyonyi, or segona
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+7 #15 Kidepwe 2023-09-06 16:08
Kirunda is just one among the many morons, paid to be condescending and to defend the indefensible.

Ofwono Opondo, Orikunda, Andrew Mwenda, the late Nagenda.. the list is endless.
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+6 #16 A K Mukasa 2023-09-06 17:24
Great heading. It encapsulates everything wrong with the regime. The culture and sense of total entitlement that pervades Museveni’s government and its cronies is on display here and the responses to Semujju’s concern cement it.

The reference to the so called stability purportedly brought to Uganda by NRM is a fig leaf and ruse to justify the mismanagement of the country and the abuse of power.

The instability was mainly caused by groups like the NRM so it is a bit rich for them to claim that they brought peace. Museveni and his cronies suffused with mediocrity want accolades and applause for simply doing what is expected of governments, maintaining stability.
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+11 #17 Lysol 2023-09-06 20:06
A childhood friend(RIP) of Museveni once said that Musvenei took power not because he wanted to serve the country as some people keep on wishing, but because of greeds.

The love for lavish lifestyle. Remember that, the man used to rob banks to finance his rebellion. He even mortgaged the old Kilembe copper mines to a British company to fund his rebellion.

On another note, if the tables were turned, wouldn't those in the opposition do the same thing? Many Ugandans go into politics because they are poor in order to get rich.
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+3 #18 Tusubira Jumbwike 2023-09-07 00:43
I used to feel bad actually ridiculed by the assertion that Busoga people come of age @45(abasoga bategerera. Kumyaka 45) and clearly from his argument, Farouk Kirunda has a long way to get to be 45.

Instead of addressing issues raised by Ssemuju he resorted to attacking his person. Tell the public how the 86 Presidential advisors are helping the autocrat in State house.

Over 909 staff force with additional 766 for the Presidency, what madness is that when in your area of origin the only financial activity they boast about in this “peace brought by museveni” (that is if he wasn’t the trouble maker) is Chapati making.

The last time Museveni was in Busoga, he was appalled by the poverty in the area where Kirunda hails from.
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+8 #19 Lysol 2023-09-07 07:56
Those numbers could also be inflated to fleece taxpayers, like with many things under the corrupt regime..
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+2 #20 Selubiri Ronald 2023-09-07 12:18
There will be a day of Reckoning ...and it will be soon.

Do all dictators read the same script! This is no different from Mugabe and Grace of Zimbabwe...Sadam Hussein or The Libyan
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