Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is seeking parliament approval to amend the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 (PFMA), which has shuttered hopes on promoting prudent public finance management in Uganda. The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, on 30th September 2015 tabled in Parliament amendments to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 among others seeking to give Government the leeway to access funds from the Central Bank without prior approval of Parliament.

Uganda Debt Network (UDN) together with other civil society actors under the umbrella of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) made a call to Parliament to reject amendments to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 during a press conference held by the Civil Society actors in Kampala.  Whereas it would be justified to amend any law, the amendments contained in the Minister’s submission should be vetoed. The PFMA, 2015 as it is, is strong on checks and balances, legislative oversight as well as gender and equity. The proposed amendments are now contrary to keeping prudent Finance Management principles in Uganda.

Civil Society Concerns

Some of the Amendments Government is proposing for such as:

Section 9 of the Public Finance Management Act, Government is proposing to substitute the word “Accounting Officer” with “Sector‟ and “vote‟ with “sector‟. The major concern is that by choosing to replace Accounting Officer‟ with “Sector”, it becomes difficult for the public to hold public officers accountable. We believe there is it’s impossible to holding a ministry accountable instead of its permanent secretary or minister. Such an amendment protects accounting officers from being held accountable for misusing public resources.

Section 13,(15)(g): By having the Certificate of Gender and Equity in the public finance law, Uganda had been rated at about 78 in terms of integrating gender in planning and budgeting. However with this proposed amendment to repeal the Certificate of Gender and Equity, the country is likely to lose this rating considering Uganda was the first country in the world to have gender clause in Public Finance Management laws. Certificate for Gender and Equity responsiveness is very critical if the country is to attain gender responsive and sustainable development. The current section in the law was a compromise position and such government needs time to test this process.

Section 17 of the Principal Act if amended proposes that if a vote does not to utilize money of a given financial year shall by the end of the 31st July of the following financial year, authorization may be sought from the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury to retain that money by up to 31st October of the financial year. This amendment undermines the power of Parliament and may encourage misuse of public funds.

Section 36 proposes that Government can acquire any loan that does not extend beyond a financial year without Parliament approval. This move undermines the role of Parliament to approve all loans as provided for in constitution of Uganda. In the amendment for Section 22 of the PFMA, we are against the proposal to widen the scope of a virement to be more than 10% of the vote is a gross deviation and may perpetuate financial indiscipline.

Section 82 seeks to give Bank of Uganda power to make temporary advances to government and local governments in respect to temporally shortages of the recurrent revenue, without approval of parliament. This proposal undermines the role of Parliament to approve all loans but allows Bank of Uganda to print money for fiscal use which is an undesirable PFM move.  

The Open BudgetSurvey has been conducted five times in the last decade, with previous rounds completed in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. Between 2012 and 2015, the average OBI score for the 100 countries for which comparable data is available increased from 43 to 46. This result masks considerable variation in progress across the countries surveyed with the largest improvements in budget transparency between 2012 and 2015 made by countries that were among the least transparent. Uganda was commended for its high score in budget transparency at national level.  With a score of 62% in the Open Budget Survey 2015, Uganda is placed among the 19 countries (out of 102 countries surveyed) that provide substantial information to its citizens.

 OBI Launch

 Left to Right: UDN’s Mr. Julius Kapwepwe, Mr. Patrick Tumwebaze ,The Secre-tary to the Treasury (MoFPED) Mr Keith Muhakanizi , launch OBSurvey,2015 results for Uganda at MoFPED offices, September, 2015.

Drawing on internationally accepted criteria developed by multilateral organizations, the Open Budget Survey uses 109 indicators to measure budget transparency. These indicators are used to assess whether the central government makes eight key budget documents available to the public in a timely manner and whether the data contained in these documents are comprehensive and useful. Each country is given a score out of 100 which determines its ranking on the Open Budget Index – the world’s only independent and comparative measure of budget transparency.





Pic 2

 UDN’s Imelda Namagga (second left) poses with the IBP’s Executive Director, Waren Krafchick and Claire Schoulten at the OBI headquarters in London during the Open Budget Survey launch, September 2015.

The meeting was organized by Uganda Debt Network with support from Save the Children-Uganda to disseminate findings of a study conducted in Amuru, Napak and Nakasongola districts as well as promote discussion on issues of child protection and budgeting in Uganda, and ultimately gather recommendations for sharing with duty bearers and the general population to improve the situation of children in Uganda.

Participants were drawn from Achelet Primary School-Napak district, Ministry of Gender, Labour &Social Development, Ministry of Local Government, National Council for Children, National Union of Disabled Persons-Uganda, Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, CSBAG, ACODEV, children from Hillside Primary School, Nalya SS, and Teachers from Buddo and Busega Preparatory School.

Ms. Margaret Atimango, a Child Protection Specialist-SCIU, presented CS concerns on child protection in Uganda and noted that one of the positive steps Government has taken in regard to child protection is banning violence against children especially in schools-in form of corporal punishment but added that this should be done in all settings.
Despite this, violence against children is on the rise with statistics showing that 9,598 cases of defilement were investigated in 2013 compared to 8,076 cases in 2012 and up to 15% children were married off by the age of 15 years.

Out of 13,867 cases of violence against children reported in 2009 through the child helpline, only 4,917 were handled and one of the reasons for this is inadequate resources to respond to the cases.
From the children themselves, 57% said that when they reported cases of violence, nothing was done, 18% missed school as a result of pain inflicted through violence while 4 % required medical attention.
Government has shown commitment to strengthening child protection through enactment of adequate laws, ratifying international instruments and putting in place the necessary institutional framework to implement the legislation, like the National Council for Children, the Family &Children Protection Unit, and Family & Children Court.
The problem however is that these institutions are grossly underfunded understaffed and lack the necessary skills to address their mandate.

Otike Samuel, from Achelet Primary School in Napak District shared his experience and noted that their school shapes them morally and spiritually, the pupils and teachers relate well, they have a suggestion box to express their views and they receive meals at schools. However, their voices are not heard by duty bearers especially in regard to sexual exploitation. He further noted that parents hinder education of their children by retaining the boys at home to graze cattle and marrying of the girls early to get cattle as bride price.
Other challenges he mentioned, which are faced by some of the schools represented at the meeting were;

•    Pupils share toilets with teachers,
•    Most communities do not contribute towards the development of the school,
•    Shortage of teachers and
•    No adequate water sources in most schools in Napak district

He recommended that facilities for children with disabilities should be put in place (in their school) and the school should obtain space to allow the pupils engage in extra-curricular activities.

Child Protection and Budgeting

Otike Samuel, from Achelet Primary School in Napak District sharing his experience at school with participants during the meeting. Looking on and holding the microphone is his teacher Alex.

Recommendations from the meeting.

•    MoFPED should develop a Policy Framework to mainstream children issues in the budgetary process.
•    Donors should channel funds to child support through Local Governments due to their proximity to children.
•    All stakeholders should increase the level of engagement on child protection matters.
•    Institute children’s Parliaments at the sub county, district and national levels to engage effectively on children issues. For children to engage effectively in these parliaments their capacity has to be built by the elders.
•    CSOs must use the media to engage and advocate for children’s’ plight considering their crucial role in exposing information.
•    Finally, there is need to involve/engage politicians given the fact that they determine the budget dynamics in Uganda.