With the Ministry of Health struggling to find Shs7 billion to help thousands of children stricken by the nodding disease which has claimed hundreds of lives in northern Uganda, State House yesterday asked MPs to approve Shs92 billion in more funding for the Presidency.
Junior Finance Minister Fred Omach put in the supplementary budget request for Shs81.8 billion under its recurrent expenditure and another Shs10.1 billion for development activities— swelling its budget by 38 per cent.
Part of the money will be used to pay for special meals and drinks, welfare and entertainment.
Acholi Parliamentary Group chairman Reagan Okumu (Aswa) was aghast. He told Daily Monitor that while he was not surprised, Ugandans, and the people of northern Uganda, now know the kind of President they have.
“If it is true that Shs92 billion is going to State House when our people are suffering with nodding disease without any serious response, may God have mercy on us,” Mr Okumu said.
“To my colleagues in Parliament, if you approve this money the people of northern Uganda will never forgive you. It does not matter whether State House has already spent the money or not, this money shouldn’t be approved before getting money for the children who are suffering with the nodding disease,” he said.
Just five months ago, Parliament approved another additional Shs66.6 billion for State House. If approved, the State House budget will balloon to more than Shs158.6 billion— more than twice the 2011/12 Budget for Mulago National Referral Hospital. This money would meet the Shs75 billion required to answer teachers’ demands for a 100 per cent salary increment.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga referred the request to the Budget Committee for further scrutiny.
Opposition MPs yesterday accused President Museveni of being insensitive and running a “bottomless pit” State House in the face of public criticism that the outbreak of the nodding disease has been neglected.
Nodding disease progress
The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the cause, mode of spread and cure for the disease still remains a mystery.
According to current CDC findings, test results show no association with food, environment, occupational and water exposures as some reports have indicated.
This observation rules out reports that children in the affected areas were drinking dirty river water, relied on relief food during the war and reports that fall-out from munitions used during the LRA war could have caused it.
For now, the already affected children are sentenced to death by the disease.
“The children definitely die with it – it’s not rapidly progressive, but it seems to take hold of them. The nodding is in fact a type of seizure which causes damage on the brain,” said Dr Scott Dowell, CDC lead investigator, in an interview with the Center for Global Health policy, United States.
Increased pressure for action has spurred the government to announce a Shs7 billion plan to address the mystery illness.
This week, junior Health Minister Richard Nduhura told Parliament that the initial supplementary budget request that was presented to Ministry of Finance last financial year was unsuccessful. The minister said they made re-allocations from the approved sector budget but the funds mobilised were inadequate to support a comprehensive response.
Dr Nduhura said: “The initial funding of Shs100 million to initiate the response has been obtained from re-allocations within the Ministry of Health budget. However, additional funds need to be mobilised from the government and other partner agencies.”
Of concern in the run up to the general elections in February last year was the Shs18.6 billion needed to facilitate President Museveni’s donations under the State House budget of Shs95 billion in extra funding -- a figure which is over and above the total State House original budget of Shs80.6 billion.
State House request
Expenses Amount (Shs)
Special meals and drinks 413.9m
Medical and vet 41.3m
Staff training 1.6b
Welfare and entertainment 2 b
Classified items 3.5b
Travel abroad 2.8 b
Print and photocopying 25.5m
Maintaining presidential jet2.3b
President’s inland travel 6bn