KAMPALA — Government suppliers and service providers might have to wait a lot longer before they can get paid for work done during the Covid-19 crisis, PML Daily has learnt.
Sources have intimated to us that a circular from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning issued early this month instructs Ministries, Departments and Agencies to freeze spending of monies issues in the now controversial UGX. 304 billion supplementary budget.
At the beginning of April, Parliament approved a budget presented by government to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda.
This followed a presentation of a report on supplementary expenditure by the House’s chairperson of the Budget Committee Amos Lugolobi on April 7.
The Committee initially presented a UGX. 284 billion budget to Parliament to be broken for different sectors of government, with the security sector taking UGX. 77.4 billion, local government to take UGX. 36.1 billion, disaster response to take UGX. 59.4 billion, KCCA to take UGX.2 billion and the remaining 111.1 billion to the health sector.
During his presentation, Lugolobi told the house that his committee reviewed the supplementary estimates to the approved 2019/2020 budget presented by the finance minister that needed urgent approval owing to the COVID-19 situation in the country.
“The committee has recommended that the health sector budget for Financial Year 2019/2020 be enhanced to UGX. 104 billion to facilitate the recurrent budget, development budget and allocations for COVID-19 response by the Health ministry, Lugoloobi told MPs.
A minority report presented to Parliament by Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga dissented with the rest of the committee saying that there was inadequate planning for the COVID-19 pandemic which had resulted in high classified expenditures.
Parliament, later approved UGX. 304 billion instead of the UGX. 284 initially presented, with UGX. 10 billion being allocated to Parliament to give each MP for support in the fight against the pandemic. This then forced Karuhanga to court, challenging the issuance of these monies. Mr Karuhanga described the payout to his fellow legislators as “fundamentally wrong and criminal.
He added that Parliament violated legal procedures on how a supplementary budget is passed and said that the money to the MPs was smuggled into the budget.
This legal battle sparked debate in Parliament, which spilled over into the public, sparking outrage. It has since resulted in a ping pong game between the three arms of government, with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga saying that the other arms, Executive and the Judiciary were attacking the Legislature.
The back and forth movements between the arms of government caused the clergy last weekend to call on President Museveni to reign in and stop what they thought was a full scale war.
Mufti of Uganda, Ramathan Mubajje during National Prayers held at State House on Saturday said the nation was on tenterhooks from what they saw as a fight between leaders.
Previously Speaker Kadaga called a press conference at which she promised to reveal details of other expenditures that government has taken money for.
Kadaga has on several occasions issued instructions to MPs to go ahead and spend the UGX. 20 million given to each MP depite court orders asking them not to touch the money already on their accounts.
According to our source, it is on the background of this that the Treasury, fearing a backlash has issued a circular to MDAs not to spend the money.
On April 15, the Independent Magazine reported that government had released UGX.165 million to districts to help in the fight against COVID-19.
The Independent quoted several district administrators as acknowledging receipt of the money.
However, last week, New Vision Chief Executive Officer Robert Kabushenga told journalists that government was yet to pay money for service it had procured from the printing company. Mr Kabushenga was responding to MPs who questioned why the biggest media company in the country was cutting staff salaries yet they had received an incentive from government which was meant to help the company stay afloat in the tough times.
Several suppliers that this website has spoken to have also said they are still demanding money from different departments of government yet they had in on authority that government had already dispersed money to pay for services.
When we spoke to Prof Mwambutsya Ndebesa a lecturer at Makerer University on the effect that this hold up could have on the economy considering that businesses are on lockdown and supply to government is the only source of income said the he suspects the government might print money to the avert the looming recession, an action whose ultimate victim is going to be the economy.
“We are going to have an economic recession and definitely, businesses and people will suffer,” he hold this website on phone adding that, the economic recession is going to further escalate the issue of unemployment.
On the controversial supplementary budget and the bickering between the arms of government Prof. Ndebesa says government has no space for manovour.
“It is not government that maybe wishes to freeze the payments but it has to follow the protocols of money givers. In this context, I think it is European Union (EU) which has given that money”.
“When it [EU] finds that you’re spending it [money/donation] outside the protocols they gave you, then they definitely ask you to return it,” he says.
“I suspect that’s why President Museveni seemed to be for the first time disagreeing with Parliament on that money not because that he wanted but he wanted to please EU,” he revealed noting that “EU felt dissatisfied because they can’t give you money for an emergency and all of sudden you give it to MPs”.
Finance ministry spokesperson Jim Mugunga denied knowledge of the circular.