Acting Finance minister David Bahati has revealed that his docket is urgently looking for more than Shs700b to cover the gaps in the 2021 polls budget.
Mr Bahati, the State Minister for Planning, who is currently standing in for Mr Matia Kasaija, however told MPs yesterday that the Electoral Commission (EC) will get the required funds by April.
Mr Bahati was dispelling fears of the electoral body, which last week told Parliament that government’s reluctance to release the funds to implement the roadmap and organise elections could have a detrimental effect on the forthcoming 2021 general elections. The MPs and Auditor General raised similar concerns last week.
But Mr Bahati, without divulging further details, admitted that there is no money for polls.
He, however, added that “all is being done to ensure that the required funds are availed.”
“At the presentation of the Budget Framework Paper for the 2020/21 financial year, most of the details had not come up but as we move towards presenting the final paper, more things came up. We have made some allocation for the elections in the budget which is insufficient and we hope that in the next phase of budgeting in April, we shall have been able to consolidate the Shs700b which is required by the EC to carry out elections next year,” the minister said.
Mr Bahati made the remarks on the sidelines of the House budget committee meeting, where he was presenting the ministry’s Budget Framework Paper for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.
Last week, EC officials told MPs on the Legal Affairs committee that the Finance ministry had only released Shs140b out of the Shs439b that was approved to finance the election roadmap in the 2019/2020 Financial Year.
The officials said only Shs200b had been allocated to the electoral body in the next financial year, creating a shortfall of Shs518b that is needed to organise the elections.
Justice Simon Byabakama, the EC chairperson, told the Parliament that the funds available can only cater for the presidential and parliamentary nomination exercise.
In the budget estimates presented to the committee for the next financial year, there has been a decline in the total budget from Shs40.4 trillion in the 2019/2020 Financial Year to Shs39.6 trillion comprising of both domestic and external sources. The reduction in resource envelop is mainly caused by a reduction in external financing.
The minister cited slow implementation of government programmes and projects as one of the key challenges affecting implementation of agreed plans.
“Slow progress on acquisition of Right of Way and procurement bottlenecks and delays in making final investment decisions, especially in the oil and gas sector,” he said.
The MPs however, blamed slowed growth on government’s failure to plan and make serious strategies. “Planning seems to be a serious nightmare because up to now you are still evaluating the National Development Plan which is due to expire in June this year,” said Mr Amos Lugoobi, Ntenjeru County North MP, also the committee chairperson.