Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s Budget Committee on Wednesday encountered difficulties in finalizing the budget after discovering inconsistencies in figures presented by the Finance Ministry in the additional budget.
Chaired by Ntenjeru North MP Amos Lugoloobi, the Budget committee convened to scrutinize the additional 929 billion shillings in allocations presented by government on Tuesday to the already scrutinized 39.54 Trillion National Budget for the next financial year.
As the committee interfaced with the State Minister for Finance in-charge of Planning David Bahati, a fresh document defending the additional resources was presented indicating more funds totalling 934.4 billion contrary to the 929 billion Shillings figure officially tabled before parliament. Bahati appeared before the committee together with the Director Budget Kenneth Mugambe.
With Parliament racing to beat the deadline for appropriation of the 2019/2020 financial year budget by 31st May according to the Public Finance and Management Act, 2015 (PFMA), Lugoloobi tasked Bahati on the changes.
Butambala County MP Muwanga Kivumbi and Kachumbala County MP Patrick Isiagi said that the changes in figures formally tabled before parliament and those availed to the Committee was an illegality demanding that the fresh document is thrown out or the committee seeks guidance from the House.
Nakasongola Woman MP, Margaret Komuhangi asked Bahati whether he was attempting to amend the additional budget (corrigenda) before the Committee saying that it could only be amended before parliament.
Bahati acknowledged the changes in the figures appealing to the legislators to consider the changes made by his ministry also indicating that the same changes where to be formally tabled before parliament.
The State Minister partly attributed the changes in the figures to alterations made in the Education Sector budget.
Bahati further noted a new provision of 9.8 billion shillings, an increment to the Agriculture sector external financing regarding the second phase of the Vegetable Oil Development Project.
He explained that the funding for the project was confirmed after the submission of the budget draft estimates to parliament.
Tasked by the committee on the source of funding of the additional budget Bahati said that the increase in the budget from the earlier presented 39.54 trillion to 40.48 trillion is to be funded by additional borrowing from the domestic market of Shillings 502.63 billion and the increase in Non-Tax Revenue provision of Shillings 108.84 billion. The Minister also noted external financing of 9.89 billion.
“The budget has also increased by Shillings 317 billion on account of an increase in interest rates and Shillings 54 billion to service domestic interest payments and Shillings 263 billion redemption costs,” said Bahati.
Meanwhile, the Budget Committee Chairperson Lugoloobi also noted more discrepancies in figures carried in the Appropriation Bill (hard copy) earlier tabled before parliament and a soft copy sent to his committee.
Lugoloobi revealed that his committee had noted differences in budgets for different sectors with the soft copy of the Appropriation Bill indicating higher figures representing a difference of over 200 billion above those provided in a physical copy.
“For Ministry of Education there is Shillings 203 billion in the hard copy yet the soft copy indicates Shilling 300 billion. Ministry of Health has a figure of Shillings 58 billion in the hard copy and the soft copy has Shillings 81 billion. Ministry of Tourism has a figure of 92 billion against 122 billion in the soft copy. These are significant variations which are causing serious operational problem.” said Lugoloobi.
Bahati appealed for more time to allow Finance Ministry’s technical team to harmonize the figures with parliament’s technical team. But even after the required 30 minutes by the minister, he could not readily offer an explanation to the discrepancies saying that his team was still locked up to identify the cause of the differences.
Parliament’s budget committee is expected to present its report to parliament on Thursday afternoon.
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