Thought and Ideas
Behind the ruling party’s ‘wish to capture’ budget from govt
Posted Sunday, March 17 2013 at 02:00
Empty promises. Talk in the corridors of Parliament suggests that the Kyankwanzi resolution to take over control of the National Budget was prompted by the unsustainable accumulation of unfulfilled presidential pledges.
As an NRM parliamentary caucus subcommittee sets out into uncharted waters with a view to putting together a draft of the national budget, opposition legislators and some ruling party MPs are protesting the process they describe as an “illegality” that calls for a constitutional interpretation.
There are also new fears that this is yet another indication that President Museveni is still hell-bent on fusing his political party with the State by unilaterally ascribing to it functions which are prescribed under the Constitution as being the preserve of State organs.
It could end up with a petition being lodged at the Constitutional Court if ongoing consultations between those opposed to the move agree among themselves and make a pronouncement on whether it is lawful for the NRM party to write the budget or it’s a clever move to withdraw the budgeting process from Parliament oversight.
Questioning presidential order
Members of the opposition are also questioning the directive by President Museveni to facilitate the NRM caucus team. Who is paying the allowances of the members of the so-called sub-committee? They ask.
Speaking to the Sunday Monitor in separate interviews, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi and Shadow Attorney General Abdu Katuntu, said they would soon petition court to seek an interpretation on whether the NRM can exercise the mandate to write the budget, which they said is the function of particular technical wings in the Ministry of Finance and at Parliament.
Mr Mafabi said: “It’s true we are going to petition the Constitutional Court to make an interpretation on this. A national budget is prepared by technocrats not politicians. Those NRM MPs are not professionals in the areas of budgeting. The NRM MPs are not the ones to write the budget because they know nothing. The country has lost direction; the world over, politicians have never prepared the budget,” Mr Mafabi said.
Mr Katuntu explained that the NRM, as a partisan entity, is acting outside the law since it has no mandate to summon civil servants, who are of the State, to appear before them.
“For civil servants to begin explaining themselves before the party is clearly unconstitutional. It simply means that the NRM party has overthrown the NRM government. What the NRM is doing is acting outside its own government. It has no right to summon civil servants. Civil servants are answerable to government not to the NRM and I expect civil servants to resist this. We cannot act outside government.”
He said the Parliamentary Budget Committee is mandated by the law to handle the budgeting process. “The [budget] committee is after all chaired by an NRM MP with majority members belonging to NRM. It is the only committee mandated by the law to handle budgetary issues. The NRM party can only influence the budget process through state organs which they control.
“Civil servants are answerable to government departments and agencies because they are professionals and well-schooled in economic management. Those pretending to be drawing up the budget on behalf of the civil servants are being busy bodies,” said Mr Katuntu.
Mr Museveni, however, will find comfort in Deputy Secretary to Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi‘s opinion. Mr Muhakanizi told the Sunday Monitor that the process being followed is not illegal since the budget preparation is no longer a secret of the ministry of Finance “but available for public discussion”.
“The budget for this year was written last year and the NRM party is only playing an advisory role like we get input from various stakeholders such as local governments and civil society. The difference is that the NRM party is now more organised and they want to see where to reflect their priorities. Anybody can advise the President,” he said.
“We are very happy and ready to discuss the budget with whoever turns up,” said Mr Muhakanizi. By law, the ministry of Finance is supposed to produce the budget framework paper by April 1. But Parliamentary commissioner Chris Baryomunsi maintains that the deputy secretary’s reading of situation is flawed.
He said that whereas in principle it is okay for the ruling party to have its manifesto translated into the National Budget, the party secretariat should work out a mechanism on how this is communicated to the political heads of ministries and local governments so that when the budgeting process is in its initial stages, it accommodates the manifesto pledges.