Thought and Ideas
Changing Budget Act would mean...
Posted Sunday, March 17 2013 at 02:00
The Budget Act, 2001, established the Parliamentary Budget Office whose objective was to create technical capacity within Parliament to interpret the national budget and economic data.
The same office is also mandated to provide Parliament and its committees with objective, timely and independent analysis needed for national economic and budgetary legislative decisions.
If the Act is repealed, the Budget Office’s fate would hang in balance. Also, the scrapping of the Act would render the Budget Committee redundant. In the face of feverish attempts by the government to repeal the Budget Act since last year, there is proof that the Budget Office has improved accountability and efficiency.
Prior to that law coming into existence, Parliament did not play an active role in the budget formulation process. Parliament was a mere rubberstamp, endorsing what was laid before it without the ability to re-direct finances to more deserving sectors. The information provided to Parliament was also inadequate.
That unhappy situation was brought to an end when former minister of state for regional cooperation Isaac Musumba, working closely with former MP Beatrice Kiraso (both backbenchers and leading voices in the National Economy committee at the time), brought a private members’ Bill which laid out how Parliament could become more effective in demanding accountability from the government. The point was to amplify the House’s constitutionally recognised oversight role and to enable MPs influence the direction of the economy and social development policies in the country.
Article 155 of the Constitution clearly outlines the mandate of Parliament in the budgeting process. For example at any time before Parliament considers estimates of revenues and expenditure laid before it by, or on the authority of the President, an appropriate committee of Parliament may discuss and review the estimates and make appropriate recommendations to Parliament.
MPs point out that nowhere does the supreme law of the land break down that provision by saying the ruling party of a sitting government shall have a more pronounced role in the budgeting process.
The ministry of Finance and Parliament are currently consulting over the proposed Public Finance Bill. There has been spirited disagreement on key clauses. The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, last year appealed to legislators to resist attempts by the ministry of Finance to repeal the Budget Act, 2001 through the Public Finance Bill, warning Parliament would be rendered irrelevant in the budgeting process.
Ms Kadaga said the proposal would erode Parliament’s constitutional role. Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga, NRM) also warns that “Whatever the NRM is doing is not in good taste.
They are writing the budget outside the law and outside the Constitution. I hope it remains as a working document. It is very unconstitutional and only seeking to render the established institution and the laid down procedure of government irrelevant. It’s a disgrace to the Constitution, the Budget Act and the Finance Act.”
“I call upon them to desist from this unconstitutional and illegal path. There is no reason why you can turn a national budget into a party budget because you are legitimising the party takeover of the State. Parties and the government come and go but Uganda with its pillars [of State] remains.
It is a desperate effort at fulfilling endless presidential pledges. Wild pledges and promises glorified his manifesto and he is caught up in his own pledges.”