KAMPALA – The Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja has been put on spot over the alleged diversion of Shs5 billion from the Shs15 billion allocated to the Ministry of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees. The money was part of contingency budget to support areas affected by disasters.
The matter was raised by Geoffrey Macho (Indep., Busia Municipality) as a matter of national importance during the plenary sitting on 30 September 2021.
Macho said that on 29 September 2021, a message was circulated to members that the Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Hilary Onek was crying foul that the money was diverted from his ministry by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
“I found it important to find out from the Minister about the facts of this matter. This Shs5 billion is a lot of money for the tax payer. We need to know whether the Shs15 billion has been utilised well since majority of the areas in Uganda are facing disaster,” he said.
The Minister of State for Relief, Disaster preparedness and Refugees, Esther Anyakun said that there was a request from the senior minister to the Ministry of Finance for a contingency budget to respond to disasters countrywide.
“We requested for Shs30 billion but we were given Shs15 billion. Out of this, my ministry received Shs10 billion and we have spent it so far for purchase of relief items,” she said.
Anyakun added that the Ministers of Disaster and the Premier held a meeting in which the reason for diversion of the funds was explained.
“She (Premier) said she needed the Shs5 billion because she had plans to manage other disaster related issues,” Anyakun said.
This prompted Deputy Speaker, Anita Among to question the procedure in which the money was moved from the Disaster Ministry to the Office of the Prime Minister.
“When you look at the Public Finance Management Act, this is what is called virement. These are two different votes, one from the Disaster Ministry and the other from the Prime Minister. We may need to know where the money went, what it was used for and whether it was approved for two different activities,” she said.
Kween County MP, Hon. William Chemonges asked how the Shs10 billion was spent saying that there have been no interventions in Sebei region which has suffered several disasters ranging from drought to floods.
“We have been asking for help but we have never seen money. Now when you hear people talking about shs15 billion, we get shocked. Even now people are texting me asking where our money went,” he said.
David Kabanda (NRM, Kasambya County) wondered why the Premier diverted the funds and yet it is the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness that is charged with responding to disaster issues.
“When did the Office of the Prime Minister turn into a disaster ministry that must be taken care of because this money was to take care of vulnerable people,” he asked.
Dan Atwijukire (NRM, Kazo County) tasked the Premier to explain the need for diversion of funds yet the majority of Ugandans in disaster prone areas are in dire need of relief support.
“You cannot get money that was allocated for a specific activity and you take it to another activity. Running government cannot be like running a kiosk. Ugandans will not take us serious if we do not clarify this,” Atwijukire said.
Amuria District Woman MP, Susan Amero said the Prime Minister is meddling in implementation of programmes in the Disaster Preparedness Ministry.
“The Office of the Prime Minister is supposed to be a coordination office for all ministries. The Prime Minister wants to be an actor implementing all programmes that have money and that is the reason why we are failing,” she said.
Nabbanja however, said that no money was diverted. She said she wrote to Finance Ministry requesting for Shs30 billion because of the magnitude of disasters and they were given Shs15 billion.
“On 14 Spetember, there was a top management meeting where all of us under the office of the Prime Minister sit. Ministers, Onek and Anyakun attended. We agreed that since we have only shs15 billion, let us spend Shs5 billion to handle lasting solutions,” she said.
Nabbanja’s attempt to give a breakdown of the expenditure of the Shs5 billion was cut short by Kinkizi West MP, James Niringiyimana who rose on a procedural point stating that Nabbanja was providing information without documents for reference.
“The Prime Minister is mentioning a lot of things which need reference. I am looking at reallocation of money and we need reference to collate the information. We need her to have a document so that we can interrogate the report,” he said.
The Deputy Speaker directed Nabbanja to submit a written statement on Tuesday, 05 October 2021.
“Members have an oversight role. I request that you give a document that we can refer to and then you give us further information, putting into consideration the Public Finance Management Act, Section 20 on reallocation of funds from one vote to another,” she said.