Friday January 25 2013

NRM now to spearhead Budget-writing process

Mbabazi (L) addresses journalists in Kampala yesterday

Premier Mbabazi (L) addresses journalists in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO BY Rebecca Vassie 


The ruling party has endorsed a resolution that could see it assume Parliament’s lawful mandate to participate in the national budget-writing process.
The move has, however, attracted immediate opposition with some MPs noting that it directly contravenes both the Constitution and the Budget Act.
Briefing the media about the recently endorsed resolutions by the NRM parliamentary caucus sitting in Kyankwanzi, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said the party will spearhead the budgeting process henceforth.
“It was resolved that the NRM leadership and other individuals form a committee to lead the national budget preparation process in order to give the country an NRM budget as promised in the NRM manifesto,” said Mr Mbabazi.
The committee is to be chaired by President Museveni and would consist of the Vice President, the Prime minister and other line ministers whose work is related to the economy.
Also, the NRM caucus leadership and members with expertise and experience on economic matters would form part of the group to commence work immediately.
Under the Budget Act of 2001, Parliament enjoys the lawful mandate to scrutinise the national budget and offer proposals to the government, a legal position the caucus cannot claim to have under the country’s laws.

What does it mean?
By seeking to assume control over this process through extra-legal means, the move will also make the Parliamentary Budget Office, established by the Budget Act, irrelevant.
Shadow Attorney General and MP for Bugweri, Abdu Katuntu, yesterday warned that the NRM party was overthrowing its own government.
“According to the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, appropriation [of public finances] is done with the authority of Parliament. It cannot be a caucus business. The final decision of appropriation is done by Parliament. There is no law which mandates NRM to appropriate public resources as a party ,” he said.
Mr Katuntu wondered “why would the NRM want to act outside government?”, and observed that “there is something fundamentally wrong with the NRM party and they should check themselves.”
Mr Mbabazi said the government is trying to cure delays caused by technocrats.
“Undue delays in the disbursement of funds allocated to various sectors should be avoided. After the reading of the budget, the government should by July 1 be in position to release funds for the ministries,” said Mr Mbabazi.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has previously criticised manoeuvres by the government to change the Public Finance and Accountability Act so as to repeal the Budget Act.
Commenting about remarks by Mr Museveni that if what he reportedly called the “confusion” in Parliament persists, the army would not allow it, Mr Mbabazi said the President was quoted out of context.
“But of course the army is part of society.”
“I have made the point that the army having contributed to the democratisation process, it has the responsibility to keep an eye on what is happening. That’s why we have them in Parliament,” said Mr Mbabazi.