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Parliament in deadlock over budget figures chaos

Parliamentary Budget Committee in a session. (PHOTO/FILE)

KAMPALA – The Parliamentary Budget Committee is in a dilemma of meeting the May 31 deadline for passing the 2019/2020 national budget after discovering a number of discrepancies in the figures presented by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

The matter was brought to light by Amos Lugoloobi, Chairperson Budget Committee who highlighted a mismatch of figures presented by the Ministry’s physical budget on the floor of Parliament and the soft copy the Ministry tabled before the Budget Committee.

According to the Public Finance and Management Act 2015, Parliament has a deadline of 31st May to pass the budget for the next financial year and Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah had given the Budget Committee up to Thursday to table the Appropriation Bill 2019 for debate and consideration ahead of budget reading in June 2019.

However, at the start of the meeting today, Lugoloobi tasked David Bahati, State Minister for Planning to explain why there are a number of discrepancies in the budget figures.

The Committee Chairperson remarked; “We have noticed there is a discrepancy between original bill and the bill we use in soft copy. We want you to advise us on which one we should use. We realized there are big discrepancies in the Ministry of Education of Shs203Bn for the hard yet the soft copy indicates Shs300Bn it means the Ministry of Education has variance by Shs100Bn. Ministry of Health there is a figure of Shs58Bn in hard copy and the soft copy has Shs81Bn. Ministry of Tourism has a figure of Shs92Bn against Shs122Bn. These variations are causing serious operation problem.”

The Minister asked for more time to allow the Ministry’s technical team harmonise figures with Parliament’s technical team, however, it wasn’t long before the Committee also discovered that the same fake figures are in the corrigenda budget the Ministry had presented before the August House yesterday.

This time, Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala County) pointed out changes of figures brought before the Committee were different from those laid before Parliament.

“This isn’t legally before us, why don’t we dismiss these people he goes and sorts himself?” asked Kivumbi.

The discovery angered MP, with Committee Vice-Chairperson Patrick Isiagi saying; “I wouldn’t like the Minister and his team to waste our time. The Minister leaves with his talking notes and we consider what was laid.”

Bahati replied; “There are discrepancies between physical and soft copy, they haven’t given us what was discovered so we look at it with technical people. Yesterday we laid corrigendum in the evening there are two votes affected Ministry Agriculture external financing Shs9.8Bn Ministry of Education Shs49Bn on account that where salary figures are going to be.”

Margaret Komuhangi (Nakasongola Woman) castigated Bahati of attempting to amend the budget before the Committee; “Is this variation, forgery, we don’t even if it was an amendment it would show. You can’t amend corrigenda in the Committee, it can only be amended on the floor of Parliament.”

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