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Finance Officials Sent Away Over Failure To Avail Clear Budget Documents

Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija

The Finance Committee of parliament has thrown out a team of officials from the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development because of their failure to present clear documents regarding budget cuts and tax waivers for the First Quarter of this financial year.

The officials were expected to avail the committee with several documents including the annual cash flow plan resulting from the approved budget for the financial year 2022/2023, releases for the First Quarter per Vote, criteria that informed releases for the First Quarter, and additional expenditure limits among others.

The other documents required are the service providers or beneficiaries of arrears released per Vote, the planned external debt payments, planned sources of budget support and when they will be acquired, and the report on tax waivers and exemptions.

However, the committee didn’t give a chance to the officials led by Henry Musasizi, the Minister of State for Finance in Charge of General Duties, and the Deputy Secretary to Treasury, Patrick Ocailap to proceed because of presenting documents in faint print and extremely small font. The MPs noted that the documents were insufficient to inform the day’s deliberations and later on a report to Parliament.

This is the fourth time that the committee has turned away the Ministry officials due to failure to avail the required documents. Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala County MP questioned the persistent failure by the Ministry to provide the committee with the required documents on the budget suppression and execution.

Herbert Tayebwa, the Kashongi County MP wondered why the Ministry officials failed to prepare adequately before coming for the committee meeting.

Efforts by the Ministry officials to persuade MPs to proceed with the meeting by following a PowerPoint presentation were futile after the projection of the documents also failed.

Ocailap apologized for the faint documents attributing it to old printing machines at the Ministry. He however said that they were ready to provide all information required by the MPs in soft copy. Keffa Kiwanuka, the Finance Committee Chairperson resolved to adjourn the meeting to Thursday in order for the Ministry officials to prepare clear documents.

Last month, Parliament questioned the budget cuts to different government entities that were effected in the first quarter release for the current financial year. Several government entities received less money than they expected.

URN has since learned that the International Monetary Fund-IMF suspended lending to Uganda until the government settles the Shillings 8 trillion debt owed to the Bank of Uganda. The Public Finance Management Act allows Government to take short-term credit from the Central Bank at a 10 percent interest rate.

According to Amos Lugoloobi, the Minister of State for Planning, the government had to utilize this window to cater to the rising budgetary needs as global lenders withheld their assets. “And as a result, we had some arrears with the Central Bank and you know this is short-term credit so you can’t go beyond a certain ceiling, now here we are with this demand of 8 trillion shillings and our lender hasn’t been adequately serviced. The loan hasn’t been adequately serviced, so we have to go a little bit slow and I think that is a problem,” said Lugoloobi.

According to records at the Ministry of Finance, by March 2022, the national debt stock had reached 75.675 trillion Shillings, which translates into 49.6 percent of GDP. Lugoloobi recently said that there is an agreement with the IMF on settling that debt and assured the country that the government is using domestic resources.

As such, the ministry was left with just 4.67 trillion Shillings to cover the rest of the expenses including transfers to MDAs out of the initial target of 8.07 trillion Shillings meant for discretionary expenditure. Speaker, Anita Among recently directed the Finance Committee to investigate the matter and report back to parliament.

-URN

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