MPs, experts speak out on bloated national budget

The Shadow Minister for Finance, Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, speaks during a plenary session at Parliament on May 16, 2024. He accused MPs from the ruling NRM party of rubber-stamping an increase in the budget. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The chairperson of the Committee on National Economy, Mr Robert Migadde Ndugwa, defended MPs. 

Members of Parliament said yesterday that the Shs750 billion that Parliament moved around in the upcoming national budget was a result of having only a few hours to review corrections that raised the overall figure by Shs14 trillion. 

With a supermajority in the House, MPs from the ruling NRM party went on to rubber stamp the budget, Shadow Finance minister Ssemujju Nganda, who is also the MP for Kira Municipality and a member of the Opposition FDC party, said yesterday. 

“They brought a corrigenda of Shs14 trillion at midday, and remember the Speaker suspended Parliament at midday to return at 3pm; we were not ready then she pushed the suspension to 6pm,” he said. 

A corrigenda is a list of printing errors in a book with their corrections. However, far from merely pointing out errors in the Shs58 trillion Budget that the Executive presented to Parliament on March 28, the corrections raised the Budget by Shs14 trilllion to a record Shs72 trillion. 

MPs approved the revised budget in a marathon session on May 7. 
“I sat in the committee during the first suspension where we went through the corrigenda [but] all NRM MPs were shouting one word; pass-pass [and] I told them you can’t do that,” Mrf Ssemujju said. 

“After that, they went hiding in the committee. They were supposed to have returned the draft for us to go through, but we were instead called to go and sign.” 
He warned that public finance rules might have been broken.  
“The law does not allow it,” he said. 

“The law mandates them to bring the final figure they brought on March 28 which they broke. So, all of them are NRM MPs and executives involved in criminality. They kept bringing changes which are against the law. If you read the schedule in the Public Finance Management Act, the government must bring the [total budget] once.”  

MPs effort
The chairperson of the Committee on National Economy, Mr Robert Migadde Ndugwa, defended MPs. 

He told this newspaper that the Executive, represented by the Finance minister and others, was fully involved in the process. 

“If it is true that indeed we exceeded the amount, then there is a problem with the Ministry of Finance because we have always seen the minister…and when it comes to the floor, there is a Leader of Government Business there,” he said.

Mr Migadde, who is also the Buvuma Islands County MP, defended MPs for changes to the Budget. 

“This has been a long-standing issue; there is a belief that Parliament’s role is just to pass but I want to assure you that we appropriate as well,” he said.

“We have re-appropriated before. What you must know is that when the budget comes to Parliament, it is not yet a law which you say please don’t tamper with this.” 

He said MPs had reallocated money from “wasteful” trips and workshops to “critical” areas. “People have been demanding a lot of arrears, we have programmes of seedlings, compensations, among others so, for example, they wanted businesses to continue crashing yet we can do something? We think we have more interactions with the public than the Ministry of Finance and know what affects them more.” 

Mr David Walakira, the executive director of the Centre for Budget and Tax Policy, said Parliament did the “dumbest” thing if it smuggled in the said Shs750b. 

“The Executive always makes allocations and possible sources of the funds that is why it is wise to know where this money was allocated and we can start from there,” he said. 

“[State Minister of Finance Henry] Musasizi was in Parliament that day so we may need to know how this money was smuggled in,” he added.