The Ministry of Finance on Tuesday presented a supplementary budget request of Shs284b to Parliament for the purpose of mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
However, as the Finance Minister Mr Matia Kasaija broke down the details on the floor of Parliament, legislators were irked to learn that out of the entire budget, security sector was taking the lion’s share. Mr Kasaija told the House that Shs81b was going to security while Shs62b was going to the health ministry, causing murmurs among the MPs.
Local Government would receive Shs36b, Disaster Management support for the vulnerable was allocated Shs59b, ICT and National Guidance Shs14b and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Shs30b.
Mr Kasaija, on Tuesday told the House that the Shs62b was what the health sector had asked for but more money would be allocated in due course as they keep monitoring the situation.
“We are obliged to look for money to see how far it ends and consequently I wanted to see how it moves. The health sector asked for Shs62b which is not the full amount, the security people are asking for Shs81b,” Mr Kasaija said.
However, MPs were not about to stomach this as they kept questioning why security was getting more money than the Health Sector which is in dire need of finances, now more than ever, amid the current deadly pandemic. Uganda’s confirmed cases rose to 44 after 11 new cases were registered on March 31.
The latest cases were confirmed on Tuesday evening by President Museveni who said out of the 176 samples taken, 11 turned out positive.
“All members of the Watoto Children’s choir who had been quarantined upon their return from the United Kingdom recently,” he said.
Mr Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South MP said it was absurd that the country needed testing kits, pay health experts and intensify sensitization on the pandemic but more money was being invested in security instead.
“We really feel government is not serious, how can you give Shs81b to security and you only give Shs62b to the health sector which is our priority now as a country. Right now if you visit these health centres, you find the staff working without protective gear which is risky for them. Also let some money be channeled to motivate these medical personnel,” Mr Olanya said.
"You should now be directing all these Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to look at their priorities again so that we can have realistic policy statements,” said Mr Abdu Katuntu, Bugweri County MP.
In her response, the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga asked the minister to clarify whether the money will benefit the entire population and not just Kampala. She also said the minister would have to present a statement on the economic impact of coronavirus.
The request was then sent to the budget committee of Parliament for further scrutiny.
However, on Wednesday in a twisted turn of events, the budget shot up from Shs284b to Shs304b when it was tabled in the budget committee for scrutiny. In the new estimates, the budget for the health ministry was increased to Shs82b, slightly higher than the security budget which remained at Shs81b.
Under the Shs81.4b request for security according to documents presented before the committee, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) will take Shs32.2b, Uganda Police Force Shs41.2b, Prisons Shs3.5b, International Security Organisation (ISO) Shs1.9b, External Security Organisation (ESO) Shs490m and Citizen and Immigration directorate Shs1.8b.