The Minister of State for Defence and Veteran Affairs, Hon Bright Rwamirama has tabled a supplementary budget request of Shs 369.9bn.
In his justification presented before the Committee on Budget on Tuesday, 29 May 2018, Rwamirama said that the funding will go towards clearing arrears incurred in fuel, clothing, special food, medical expenses and classified expenditure.
According to the supplementary budgetary allocations, Shs 60.9bn is for special meals (food), Shs 22.3bn caters for fuel (land forces) and Shs 13.1bn is for fuel for the air force. Shs 24.6bn is for clothing and Shs 2bn will cater for medical expenses and Shs 247bn is for classified expenditure.
MPs unanimously supported the request for the supplementary budget on grounds that the country’s security largely depends on the effectiveness of the Ministry of Defence.
The Committee Chairperson, Hon Amos Lugoloobi noted the need to clear the arrears, saying that it is a risk to leave the defence ministry to continue operating on a deficit budget.
“How can the ministry in charge of a country’s security survive on borrowing from suppliers of important items like food, fuel and staff clothing? This can cause problems not only to the force, but to the suppliers too,” said Lugoloobi.
Col Felix Kulayigye (UPDF Representative) said that the ministry’s image risks getting tainted if they continue borrowing without paying back.
“The ministry needs to urgently settle debts not only to save its image, but also to be able to perform effectively,” said Kulayigye.
Hon Peter Ogwang (NRM, Usuk County) attributed the current developments in the country to the prevailing peace and stability and efforts of the Ministry of Defence.
“Our sons and daughters have sacrificed but as legislators and a country, we seem not to be prioritising the Ministry of Defence. These gentlemen and women should be well facilitated to protect our country,” said Ogwang.
Hon Alex Byarugaba (NRM, Isingiro South) argued that the items that require additional funding are key in the operations of the military.
“We have given a lot of money to institutions that have had a lot of questionable expenditures with no results. At least the UPDF has not let us down so far,” said Byarugaba.
Hon Opolot Patrick Isiagi (NRM, Kachumbala County) faulted the ministry for requesting less than what is required to cover for medical expenses.
“The ministry requires shs3.8 bn for medical expenditures but has requested for Shs2 bn in the supplementary budget. Health should be prioritised and arrears cleared to zero,” said Opolot.
Hon Muwanga Kivumbi (DP, Butambala County) raised concern over the funds requested for classified expenditure, saying that the purpose of the funds is questionable.
“The utilisation of this money should be interrogated because such funds can be used for political activities. Legislators should pick interest in knowing where government resources are channelled before approving it,” said Kivumbi.
The Minister allayed fears of misuse of the budget of classified expenses, saying that the funds are used for the intended purpose.
“We cannot put items under classified expenditure into the public domain because we shall be jeopardising our security,” said Rwamirama.
Rwamirama also tabled additional funding to the Ministry of Defense and Veteran Affairs for Financial Year 2018/2019 under a corrigenda totalling to Shs 500bn.
Some of the items under the corrigenda include; wage, maintenance of aircrafts, maintenance of vehicles, classified expenditures, land compensation and completion of Nakasongola Airbase among others.