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Minister Kasaija Plays Tennis As Mercenaries ‘Hijack’ Shs52Trn Budget

Finance Minister Matia Kasaija

Parliament Wednesday failed  for the second time to approve the Appropriation Bill 2024 that will guide the 2023/2024 national budget after Speaker Anita Among complained that mercenaries had camped in the Budget Committee meeting, advocating to have their budgets approved.

Last week, the Speaker informed Parliament that Plenary sittings this week will be held in the morning, as opposed to the usual afternoon sessions, in order to handle both the Supplementary and Appropriation Bills.

However, she hasn’t been able to attain that because of the back and forth discussions between officials of the Ministry of Finance and lawmakers on Parliament’s Budget Committee.

Drama started when Speaker called on the leadership of the Budget Committee led by Patrick Isiagi (Kachumbala County) and deputized by Ignatius Mudimi (Elgon County) to present the Committee’s report on the Appropriation Bill, but they were  cut short by Henry Musasizi (State Minister for Finance -General Duties), who revealed plans to present a corrigenda to the budget.

Speaker who seemed to have had prior knowledge to the development, accepted arguing that the changes being fronted in the second corrigenda weren’t too significant to affect the final report, and adjourned the house for two hours, with the hope that the report would be ready.

However, documents from the Budget Committee indicated that the 2023/2024 national budget had shot up from Shs51Trn to Shs52.7Trn on the account of Shs817.216Bn corrigenda

where Shs37Bn was being moved from  State House to classified budget for logistical support and security, Shs339.8Bn from classifies to Ministry of Defense for general staff salaries and Shs70Bn was going to be gifted to Ministry of Science and Technology tagged to vaccine manufacture.

However, some MPs on the Budget Committee rejected the corrigenda arguing that classified expenditure was just a nomenclature used to hide true purpose of the funds, which had been initially been requested for by Ministry of Science and Technology to carry out research on  the manufacture of vaccine  despite reports indicating the project isn’t viable.

The bickering in the Committee attracted the attention of Speaker Among who took part in the Committee meeting, another rarity, and returned back to Parliament, after the initial suspension of the morning sitting.

This time around, Isiagi took to the floor seeking for an adjournment until Thursday, blaming the delays on the decision by the Ministry of Finance to table addendum to the Budget.

He lamented, “Government has continued to submit addendum and corrigenda to the estimates and you are aware even this morning, two hours ago, the addendum to the Corrigenda was laid and referred to this Committee. It will be magical science for the Budget Committee to be able to meet the directive of preparing and consolidating a report today. So we request the House to allow us to have the whole of today, interrogate and do the right report.”

However, Speaker Among called out Isiagi for glossing over the real issues his Committee is grappling with revealing, “There are mercenaries in the Budget Committee advocating for particular entities. They are people disorganising the Committee. As the Chairperson of the Budget Committee, he maybe fearing to say the challenges there but for me I will say it. I am coming to monitor the process myself and adjourning this House to 8am, tomorrow.”

Speaking to journalists after the debacle inside the chambers, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mathias Mpuuga announced plans to investigate the allegations of mercenaries, saying that his team on the Budget Committee was keenly following the matters.

Mpuuga remarked, “The Chairperson of the  Budget Committee must hedge the country against those small non-core interests and make sure that the broader agenda national interests are not circumvented.”

However, as all this drama was taking place, the Ministry of Finance published a tweet, insinuating the Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija who has eluded the budget process leaving it to his deputy Minister of State Musasizi, wasn’t bothered by the fiasco at Parliament.

“WORK-LIFE BALANCE: Finance Minister Matia Kasaija will be playing his favourite Sport TENNIS this evening. He will tussle with Dr Mbonye at Kampala Club at 6:00PM. Don’t miss the showdown live on NBS Sport,” read I’m part the tweet from the Ministry’s official Twitter handle.

 

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