Parliament’s Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development is worried about the ballooning expenses in Treasury Operations that continue to narrow revenue for social services.
Vote 130, which caters for statutory expenditure – obligations that government must meet in a financial year like interest payment on loans, cashing out matured bonds and treasury bills, among others.
It is a vote that strictly goes to servicing of national debt and other financial obligations, but it has since been rising to the projected Shs18.7 trillion for the next financial year.
It leaves MPs with only Shs24 trillion in discretionary expenditure – revenue which they can appropriate to different votes for social services.
But Finance Shadow Minister, Hon. Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi said Shs7 trillion which goes to wage expenses should be deducted from the discretionary Shs24 trillion because wages must be paid anyway.
Government, too, is concerned.
“We are also asking ourselves what we do to get this out of our budget because it is increasing. 2023/24 is not going to be an easy year; our discretionary fund is Shs24 trillion against the needs which are close to Shs40 trillion; we have analysed this budget line by line, what we have provided is what we think must be funded,” said Finance State Minister, Hon. Henry Musasizi.
Reports that an extra Shs140 billion was paid to the construction of the stalled Lubowa Specialised Hospital was emotive, with Hon. Karim Masaba (Indep., Mbale City Industrial Division), questioning the basis of alleged continued payments to the project, despite Parliament’s instruction to halt further payments until issues surrounding the project are streamlined.
But Ministry of Finance officials led by Accountant General, Lawrence Ssemakula asked to have the matter discussed substantively but separately on another day, insisting that the payments they are making are in line with the 10th Parliament’s appropriation of over US$350 million in promissory notes to the project.
Another contentious issue is the payment to Roko for Government of Uganda’s share purchase, which is outstanding at Shs55 billion, which Kivumbi said is cleverly not indicated in the budget to be later spent under Section 25(2) of the Public Finance Management Act, which allows government to spend anything within three per cent of the total budget without prior Parliament approval.
Court awards that are due for payment but haven’t been included in the budget are Shs133 billion, and the International Court of Justice award to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to which government commits to pay an extra Shs248 billion to clear the entire sum of $650 million being compensation for the plunder of resources in the DRC.
Government is also capitalizing Bank of Uganda to the tune of Shs217 billion, but asked to provide the rationale behind the reimbursement even when the Central Bank doesn’t engage in typical financial services, the officials chose silence.
Relatedly, government is also paying the Central Bank up to Shs150 billion in an assortment of charges for services rendered to government, an issue which irked Kivumbi, who found it anomalous.
The entirety of the payments in the vote could potentially push the vote upwards by at least Shs1 trillion, which would make it close to Shs20 trillion.