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Mixed Reactions As Parliament Defers Approval Of shs 292 Billion Supplementary Budget

Uganda’s Prime Minister, standing center-left, addresses Members of Parliament in Kampala, Uganda Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Ugandan police on Thursday fired tear gas to disperse protesters and arrested dozens of people opposed to plans to introduce legislation that could allow the longtime president Yoweri Museveni to extend his rule. (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi)

Parliament has deferred the approval of a supplementary funding for the financial year 2020/21 of shs292 billion trillion, after it emerged that a request of shs12 billion for compensation of individuals affected by land evictions in Bunyoro was made without the knowledge of the Uganda Land Commission.

Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga who chaired plenary sitting on 09 February 2021 to consider the report of the Budget Committee on the supplementary budget deferred the approval after Hon. Gaffa Mbwatekemwa (NRM, Kasambya County) informed the House that he had evidence that the Land Commission was not consulted before the supplementary request was made.

“I want the Minister to tell this House who initiates a supplementary. Within few minutes, I will bring a document from the Uganda Land Commission. They are protesting this supplementary because they are not aware of the people to be compensated in Bunyoro,” he said.

Mbwatekamwa also questioned the criteria used to identify the beneficiaries of compensations saying that many individuals have been left out.

Mukono South MP, Hon. Johnson Muyanja Senyonga  read the letter by the Chairperson of the Uganda Land Commission, Hon Beatrice Byenkya which raised concern about the compensations.

“The Commission is not privy to this list and wants the Minister to be brought to order. I am kindly imploring you, Hon. Speaker and your office to unpack the money given to the Land Commission so that I can carry out the mandate,” read the letter in part.

Hon Muyanja Ssenyonga read the letter from the Uganda Land Commission

Attempts by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Hon Beti Kamya to explain the matter and justify the need for the supplementary budget fell on deaf ears as MPs advised the Minister to discuss the budget with the Lands Commission.  

“The Minister of Lands wrote to the Minister of Finance and brought all these matters to him and asked that funds should be provided for compensation of individuals in Bunyoro,” Kamya said adding that, ‘the letter was copied to the Uganda Land Commission three months ago and the Commission acting not in good faith did not raise the matter. The letter which has just been read is not even copied to the Minister of Finance and Lands.’

Hon. Elijah Okupa (FDC, Kasilo County) raised a point of procedure, asking the Minister and the Lands Commission to reconcile their positions.

“I think this is turning ugly where we are seeing uncoordinated information. I think to save the face of Parliament and Government, it is procedural right that the minister asks for time and reconciles these issues or we just disregard the supplementary for the Land Commission and move with the rest of the items,” he said.

Dokolo District Woman Representative, Hon. Cecilia Ogwal advised the Minister to consider the information provided that Uganda Land Commission is not aware of the supplementary.

“I am saying this because we had a very serious situation in our hands when the Minister of Finance brought a supplementary in the name of Bank of Uganda and when we called the officials, they denied. It is very important that we get to know whether Uganda Land Commission is aware of that supplementary,” she said.

This prompted Kadaga to suspend the approval of the supplementary budget in its entirety, until Thursday.

“I have also received a letter and we need to ensure that we are moving together on this supplementary. I want to advise that we stand over the matter and allow the Budget Committee, the minister and all the stakeholders to review this matter,” she ruled.

Kadaga added that the government should also provide commitment that the supplementary budget amounting to shs11.2 billion for compensation of tobacco farmers will be paid back by the two companies that entered contractual arrangements with farmers to supply tobacco in 2018 and yet they still have the tobacco in their stores.

Part of the supplementary request is also meant for the purchase of 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for vaccination of people against the Covid-19. It is also meant for handling of national exams by the Uganda National Examination Board(UNEB) during the COVID pandemic.

The Legislators also queried the supplementary budget allocation to Ministry of Education and Sports of shs1.4 billion to cater for outstanding administrative costs under Mandela National Stadium, given its designation as a Covid-19 treatment and isolation facility. 

Hon. Joseph Ssewungu (DP, Kalungu West) objected to the request saying that the national stadium has been used for other activities which are not related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There is a lot of theft going on in Namboole and the Public Accounts Committee queried this but no answer was given,” he said.

The MPs also raised concern over the need to ensure that the committee recommendation to allocate a supplementary of shs34 billion to purchase ambulances for each district, instead of vehicles is well implemented.

Hon. John Baptist Nambeshe (NRM, Manjiya County) said that consideration should be made to procure air ambulances for mountainous areas.

“There are some areas where vehicles cannot access, and such need air ambulances,” he said.

Hon. Frederick Angura (NRM, Tororo South County) also asked for boat ambulances for Island districts, saying that lives are being lost in those districts due to absence of ambulances.

Hon. Nathan Nandala Mafabi (FDC, Budadiri County West) urged the legislators to interest themselves in knowing the cost of ambulances to ensure value for money.

“We should avoid a situation where government will hike the prices of these ambulances and yet they are not even taxed. If we do not take interest in this procurement, we risk getting few ambulances as opposed to the 282 budgeted for in the supplementary,” he said.

Government is seeking approval to spend the over shs4.2 trillion under the supplementary expenditure schedule 4 and addendum 1&2 to schedule 4 for financial year 2020/2021.

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