18 Ministries Run Out of Cash
By Yasiin Mugerwa
Kampala — The Defence ministry yesterday topped a list of 18 ministries and government agencies asking for Shs285.5 billion in supplementary budget, which would increase this financial year's budget, approved seven months ago, to over Shs7.3 trillion.
Although it was anticipated the virtual end of LRA insurgency in northern Uganda would ease pressure on military spending, the army now says it has now exhausted Shs433 billion allocated to it last July and requires an extra Shs71.9 billion "for continuing Operation Lightning Thunder" and clearing unspecified domestic arrears.
The UPDF launched OLT on December 14, 2008 to dismantle the LRA command but ended the offensive prematurely early last year amid protest by the Congolese government and without catching or killing Joseph Kony as planned. However, the Ugandan military left behind a contingent of specialised officers to track the insurgents, reportedly swapping hideouts between South Sudan, eastern DRC and the Central African Republic.
If the latest requests are approved, the Defence budget this year will shoot to more than Shs500 billion. The details of the new demands are contained in the latest supplementary budget in which the Finance Minister, Ms Syda Bbumba, is seeking parliamentary authority for, among others, additional spending on State House (Shs18.5b) Office of the President (Shs5.9b), Ministry of Education (Shs5.6b). Other intended beneficiaries include the Ministry of Public Service (Shs81 billion), the Electoral Commission (Shs30b), Office of the Prime Minister (Shs2b) and Foreign Affairs (Shs1.2b).
While opposition lawmakers criticised planned additional financing on the army as "wasteful", Ms Bbumba said the funding is required to "cater for shortfall in salaries for UPDF, food and Classified Expenditure to cater for urgent security operations under Operations Lightning Thunder." MP Livingstone Okello-Okello (Chwa; UPC), who was critical of the ballooning cost of the executive, said: "We are just appropriating money for them to eat."
Government says spy bodies require more money to tackle "emerging security/terrorism concern." Shadow Finance Minister Oduman Okello accused Ms Bbumba of relaxing supervision, resulting in "uncontrolled" government spending. "Having a supplementary budget of about Shs300 billion is either poor budgeting or wasteful expenditures in government," he said. By July 2009, State House had spent more than Shs88 billion from the national budget, outstripping the Shs82 billion allocated to the agricultural sector that directly employs an estimated 24 million Ugandans.
Yesterday, bureaucrats including Ministers Bbumba and her junior Ruth Nankabirwa (micro-finance) declined to disclose the source of additional funds for the government to meet supplementary budgetary requests...
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