Finance cautions parliament on reckless spending.

This comes after the recent negative public reactions towards the purchase of high-end new vehicles for past speakers of parliament even as fulfillment of other government obligations like salaries and wages, arrears and other projects is still a struggle. Ramathan Ggoobi, permanent secretary and secretary to the treasury (PSST) says that while the constitution allows such institutions freedom, they will now have to spend according to the priorities of the government. He was speaking while giving highlights of the Q3 expenditure releases and an update on the state of the economy. "These include cars for statutory votes. Statutory votes include parliament and judiciary, they get their money and by law, they prioritise what they spend that money on that is what the constitution tells them. Recently, I heard people debating some cars which were paraded being given to some people that; 'you see government is not serious, they said they are not going to buy cars now they are buying cars.' Those were for statutory institutions, that is how they prioritise their budget but we're now saying even statutory institutions let us prioritise the priorities. These things - travel abroad, even inland prioritise it. In other words, spend money to only the critical needs. Those which can be postponed, let us postpone them...and ensure value for money, especially with private contractors who are partnering with the government," said The PSST also said this will help reduce the demand for supplementary budgets, another cause for a public uproar, over the way the government is spending money in times of dwindling resources. Justifying the expenditures and the efforts being taken to control supplementary budgets, Ggoobi said he had blocked requests worth Shs 3.5 trillion from various ministries, departments, and agencies. In December last year, parliament approved a supplementary budget totalling about Shs 3.5 trillion for different activities including paying off a Bank of Uganda debt, preparations for the hosting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and G77+China summits, as well as for the next national population census, and classified expenditure for the Office of the President, among others. Questions also arose as to why the ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Deployment was granted a supplementary land compensation to three cultural institutions, which they thought could wait. Ggoobi said the items in four categories could not wait for next year’s budget, giving an example of the security and classified expenditures which he said cannot be debated. "Security is not for debate. When those who are in charge of security tell us there are threats to the country, those ones can't wait. You can't go to school when there are terrorists burning children in school. And I have been hearing a number of my friends debating them, does this qualify for supplementary? Couldn't it wait? I would like to interrogate them in light of the four categories I have given you. But that does not mean that we have just been putting things on supplementary. No! In my office there, I managed to arrest letters asking for supplementaries worth Shs 3.65 trillion. The internal auditor general recently, I gave him a heap of those requests of supplementary. I don't even give them to my officers to look at them," said Ggoobi. Julius Mukunda, chief executive officer of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), challenged the ministry over some items that he thinks should not have been part of the supplementary budget. He wondered, for example, while the government had to include the expenditures for the two international meetings which they had known about for more than two years prior, and would have planned for adequately. Mukunda said the ministry should be stricter on the government agencies to plan for major and even periodical events, like the national census which, in his view, was not an emergency to require a supplementary budget. He, however, hailed the ministry for a detailed explanation of some of the causes of additional requests for funds midway through the implementing process. "The detailed explanation about supplementary budgets especially on the issue of revoting but also parliamentary actions sometimes lead to these allocations the approval level that requires you to have a supplementary budget. But we need to ask a fundamental question why some of these activities are not in the budget. We know for example that NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] was approved two years ago, and it required a supplementary budget now. We know that Uganda Bureau of Statistics had a plan to conduct a census, why then would it require a supplementary budget? We believe that if you [ministry of Finance] could be a bit more strict on these agencies and strategically guide ministries on where to allocate money first because if we leave agencies to allocate on their own, they forget these critical areas like counting our own people. So we really think that the ministry of Finance should come back and guide these ministries on what they are supposed to do," said Mukunda. In response, Ggoobi said that some of the projects were too big to be catered for in the annual budget and they required either borrowing or asking for supplementary funds. He added that the government will always spend according to the resources available, and this means postponing some previously planned projects to cater to priorities. The PSST said the government will continue improving the management of debt and expenditure, especially by boosting revenue collection and targeted spending. "Government is committed to fiscal consolidation under three key objectives that include; boosting revenue collection, rationalizing government expenditure, and controlling Government borrowing," he said. Excluding debt, external fining, and local revenue, a total of Shs 4.974 trillion was released for the third quarter that runs between January and the end of March, bringing the total so far released to Shs 19.921 trillion. This means that so far, 78.9 per cent of the planned budget of Shs 25.25 trillion has been spent. However, including the supplementary budgets, the total comes to Shs 29 trillion that is expected to be spent. When debt, external financing, and local revenue are added, the total released for the third quarter is Shs 14.617 trillion, bringing the total for the year so far to Shs 45.747 trillion.
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