Wednesday June 25 2014

Civil society wants tough budget accountability law

Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka presents the

Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka presents the 2014/2015 Budget speech in Parliament recently. The civil society wants a stronger accountability law. FILE PHOTO 



Civil society organisations are calling for tougher budget controls, saying if enforced, they could control budget leakages and indiscipline.
According to the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), the Public Finance Bill, in Parliament, should not be passed without provisions that demand for budget accountability and transparency from public institutions that collect and spend public resources.

Public finance Bill
The Public Finance Bill, 2012, is a proposed legislation seeking for effective, fair and equitable management of public finances for the benefits of Ugandans.
In a report presented last week in Kampala, CSBAG cited among others, the need for the Bill to regulate classified expenditures, mainly security related expenditure, that is not revealed or discussed in public. It also pointed out the need for the Bill to ensure equity, accountability and transparency in revenue collection and expenditure, in addition to closing the gaps that could render the national Budget useless. If that is not done, CSBAG Coordinator Julius Mukunda argues that it will be difficult to determine whether the resources channelled into different sectors and particularly the classified expenditure, are well accounted for or being abused under the guise of “classified” expenditure.
To deal with the situation, the CSBAG report noted: “The new position of Internal Auditor General should evaluate and report on the internal control systems established for purposes of managing classified expenditure with the view to avert fraud and ensure that the information systems are accurate and complete.”
And for that, the CSBAG members propose that the Bill replaces the statement “systems of internal control” which is under Clause 20 (3) with “internal control systems” to read as follows: “The Internal Auditor General shall evaluate and report to Parliament on internal control systems of classified expenditure.”
Another element likely to be abused by government, according to the CSBAG, is tax expenditures, a form of off-budget spending.
They are exemptions and other tax concessions that fall outside the usual benchmarks for taxes. They are adopted to provide a benefit to a specific activity or class of taxpayer.

Local governments
The civil societies also want the local governments, who collect and use some revenues not appropriated to them, be made to account for the revenues and their sources before Parliament.