PARLIAMENT. Government plans to spend Shs95 billion on buying vehicles and other transport equipment. The details of the vehicles to be bought per government sector and the reason for the purchase are contained in the national Budget framework paper for the Financial Year 2017/18, a ministry of Finance document that contains information on Budget estimates for the different ministries.
According to the estimates, the accountability sector will be the biggest spender on vehicles with a budget of Shs15 billion followed by Security/Defence with a budget of Shs13.8b.
The accountability sector includes ministry of Finance, and bodies such as Uganda Revenue Authority.
Some purchases under the sector, such as the Shs1.5 billion to be spent by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, are justified as replacement of aged fleet of vehicles.
Another Shs300 million will be spent by the Public Procurement and Disposal of the Public Assets Authority (PPDA) because, the paper notes: “the Fleet of the Authority is aging yet most of the activities of the Authority are field-based hence the need to replace the fleet on a rolling basis.”
Vehicles worth Shs320 million will also be bought for the IGG’s office “to enhance the capacity of the inspectorate to execute its mandate namely investigations prosecutions and enforcement of the Leadership Code of Conduct and also conduct public awareness.”
The Budget Framework Paper neither shows the number, nor the particulars in terms of type and chassis number of vehicles each sector will buy.
Public sector management has a budget of Shs9.9 billion, Shs3.1 billion of which was justified as, “need to retire outstanding obligations on vehicles” under ministry of Local Government.
The ministry of Education plans to spend Shs7.6 billion with most of the money going into purchase of vehicles to aid in the delivery of tertiary and research.
Sectors with the least vehicle purchase budgets include; Parliament (Shs675m) Energy (Shs712m) and Tourism (Shs964m)—Shs185 million is planned to buy a vehicle for the Tourism minister. Shs4.921 billion of the Shs8.77 billion health sector vehicle budget will be used for the purchase of 57 vehicles for programme management and district health offices.
Shs200 million has been planned for the procurement of a double cabin pickup and motorcycle for support supervision. Shs80 million is planned to procure an ambulance and staff van for improved service delivery at Mbarara referral hospital.
The plan to spend Shs95 billion on vehicles, however, comes after the Auditor General, in his latest report, raised a red flag over what he termed as high motor vehicle maintenance costs in some sectors and or offices such as the President’s Office.
During the financial year ended June 30, 2016, the Auditor General noted that a sum of Shs1.722 billion was spent on maintenance of the entity vehicles with the RDCs vehicles taking a big part of it. The accounting officer attributed the high costs of vehicle maintenance to the aged fleet used by RDCs and DRDCs in the rugged rural terrain.
In 2015, this newspaper also broke a story about how hundreds of government vehicles that need minor repairs were rotting away in public parking yards and private garages across the country.
This notwithstanding, government continued to buy vehicles, the availability of grounded ones that need minors repairs notwithstanding.
Is it fair?
The programmes director Uganda Debt Network, Mr Julius Kapwepwe, condemns government’s continued purchase of vehicles saying it is not necessary. “It is tragic that with the improved road network around the country, it is the central government officials who stay and work in Kampala to be at the forefront of buying fuel guzzlers and very expensive vehicles,” Mr Kapwepwe said, adding: “In addition to the President’s directive of cutting travel expenses, we should cap purchase of government vehicles, with tighter rules on fleet management, away from abuse and wastage of fuels and abuse of drivers who belong to taxpayers and not individual officers,” he said.