On Tuesday, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, had a few tough words for the ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, accusing them of going about their business in a manner that is likely to frustrate Parliament’s efforts to conclude the budgeting process before the end of May.
Mr Oulanyah’s words were precipitated by an introduction by minister David Bahati, of an addendum to the 2019/2020 Budget, introducing an additional Shs1 trillion, and in so doing, raising the national Budget to Shs40.1 trillion, a few hours before Parliament was to make final amendments and debate on the said Budget.
Mr Oulanyah is right that this is unfair to Parliament. It is, however, even more unfair to the taxpayers and the future generations of Ugandans on whose behalf the ministers and legislators are making decisions.
Given the timelines involved, the committees of Parliament will not be able to put the addendum under the microscope, a task which was always going to be hard given the level of expertise in those committees. At the end of the day, Parliament is going to be stampeded into making a decision without appreciating the ramifications of whatever decision that it will take, which is absurd.
We appreciate that there might be times when ministers will feel pressured. President Museveni has, for example, granted a request by political parties to increase government funding from Shs10 billion to Shs35 billion and has directed that Finance minister Matia Kasaija includes it in the 2019/2020 Budget.
It will not be a big surprise if he runs to Parliament with another addendum. The problem though is that the Ministry of Finance has made stampeding Parliament part of its methods of work and the reason is quite difficult to understand.
On March 12, Parliament was stampeded into approving a proposal by Finance minister for government to issue promissory notes of $379.71m to FINASI /Roko Construction SPV Limited for the construction of a specialised hospital at Lubowa. A suit has since been filed in the Constitutional Court seeking a declaration to set parliamentary approval aside on grounds that the purported approval was obtained irregularly.
Whichever way court rules, there is an urgent need for this kind of stampeding to be brought to an end. The image of Parliament is at stake. It comes across as shabby and its decision the subject of litigation. The image of government is at stake too. It comes across as lacking in focus. Decisions of Parliament will be subject of litigation. We do not need that.
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