State House spends approximately Shs 2.8 billion daily, a record of its financial year (FY) and supplementary budget allocations between 2016/2017 and 2022/23 reveals.
Merged budget allocations to State House have progressively increased from Shs 497bn in 2019 to Shs 857bn in 2020 and Shs 1.02 trillion in 2021. In April and October 2020, State House received two supplementary budget allocations worth Shs 90 billion and Shs 450bn respectively.
The latter was on top of the Shs 407bn that State House had been allocated hardly three months after the start of 2020/21 financial year. On the flip side, several other key ministries and agencies of the economy continue to endure decreasing budgets.
In fact, the national budget framework paper for FY 2023/24 reports significant budget cuts. Sources privy to the cuts attributed the budget cuts to the absence of money which some economists have blamed on the government’s ostentatious lifestyle that has affected service delivery.
For instance, in the next financial year, Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) shall receive Shs 29bn, representing a 54.5 percentage decrease. Uganda records approximately 35,000 new cases of cancer and 25,000 deaths associated with cancer annually.
During the October 20, 2020 parliamentary session that approved the Shs 3.8 trillion supplementary budget, MPs questioned the Shs 450bn to State House. Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, the Budadiri West MP, questioned the classified expenditure allocation.
“Is State House buying guns? What is it going to use Shs 200 billion for? What is that classified information which cannot be found in the ministries of Internal Affairs and Defence or the Uganda Police Force? What is this Shs 200 billion plus the other Shs 250 billion, which makes it Shs 450 billion? Is it a matter of just appropriating money just for the sake of it? This is disastrous for this country,” Mafabi said.
Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira MP, noted that funding for the supplementary is indicated as “additional borrowing”. “We are borrowing to give State House Shs 450bn! (..) My understanding is that State House is the residence of the president. The president’s children have grown and got married; so, they are no longer there. This State House has become the biggest consumer of our budget - Shs 450bn for State House on top of the Shs 600bn that we passed here,” he said.
In a recent interview with The Observer, Julius Mukunda, the executive director of the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), said Uganda’s budget process lacks proper planning and prioritization of resources for expenditure.
“Agriculture, the backbone of Uganda’s economy, is allocated Shs 1.2 trillion while State House is allocated one trillion shillings. This is just a question of poor planning. A serious government would ensure that more resources are channelled through agriculture because it has a multiplier effect,” Mukunda said.
To run away from the budgeting process, Mukunda said most government agencies no longer budgeted for their core mandates in anticipation of supplementary budgets as classified expenditures.
“Ninety per cent of the money that we spend doesn’t qualify to be supplementary budgets. A supplementary budget should be unavoidable but almost everyone now needs a supplementary budget. Since supplementary budgets distort the entire planning process, they should be for emergencies only. There’s no expense in a budget that requires a supplementary budget. These are planned-for expenses that can always be considered in the financial year budget,” Mukunda said.
In their June, 2022 report to understand the government’s fondness for supplementary budgets, Alliance for Finance Monitoring, a nongovernmental organization that follows money in politics, reported that the government of Uganda had appropriated four supplementary budgets worth Shs 9.138 trillion ($2.538 billion) between November 2021 and May 2022.
“The known secret for the large appetites for supplementaries is that the conditions governing the appropriation of the supplementary budgets are less stringent. Most of the questionable items are embedded under supplementary budgets. When supplementary budgets are used to finance fixed costs like paying salaries, renting office space etc than being used for capital investment, they have zero impact on the GDP growth,” their report read in part.
This story was published with support from MCI and DW Akademie