On 15th April, Civil Society Organisations under their umbrella, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) organised a pre-budget dialogue at Hotel Africana in Kampala to discuss Government’s budget proposals for the next financial year (2015/16). The meeting was chaired by chaired by UDN’s Board Chairperson, who is a Senior Presidential Advisor on Economics, Prof. Ezra Suruma. and attracted 500 participants across the country at Hotel Africana in Kampala. The civil society group demanded that Government should present a people-centered budget for the Financial Year 2015/16 that would enable Ugandan citizens have a decent life.
Presenting a paper titled “CSO reflection on the National Budget Proposals FY2015/16: Assessing Government’s Financing and Expenditure Choices for FY2015/16,” Julius Mukunda the Coordinator of CSBAG pointed out that because every shilling that the Uganda government spends counts, it is important that the national budget reflects the interests of the Ugandan citizens. Mr. Mukunda highlighted critical sectors of health, education and health which are to suffer budget cuts and sought the intervention of the legislators to reverse these proposals. For example, he noted the meager allocation to school inspection. “With the allocation to school inspection, government will spend UGX 940 per UPE School in the next financial year” he said. The CSOs further decried wasteful expenditure by Government, quoting the Auditor General’s report FY 2013/14 in which USD 3.6mn (UGX 7.4bn) was considered wasteful. The issue of poor absorption capacities of sectors and Local Governments was also a major concern for CSOs. “In the FY 2013/14, CSOs noted that Government entities returned unspent balances of UGX.9.4bn to the Consolidated Fund.” He thus urged Government to refine the procurement system better to improve the absorption of the development budget. In his final request, Mr. Mukunda on behalf of CSBAG members urged Government to deliver on the unfulfilled pledges like the revamping of the cooperative which the Budget Speech FY 2014/15 mentioned. “To our dismay, the Cooperative Bank is now listed as an unfunded priority under the Trade Sector requiring Ugshs 35bn for its revival", Mukunda said.
The Ag. Commissioner, Budget Policy and Evaluation in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Mr. Okudi Bellarmine, informed the meeting that Government’s focus in the new financial year will be increasing investment, employment and economic growth in private sector for sustainable development, increase social service delivery in areas of education and health with the little resources available, ensure there is revenue mobilization in order to expand tax base to facilitate government programmes, accelerate infrastructure development and maintenance and many others.
Representatives from different groups, youth, PWDs, Farmers also made presentations and raised concerns that they hope will be taken on by the Government before the budget is passed. The theme for this year’s budget is Maintaining Infrastructure Development and Maintaining Excellency in Public Service.
Participants at the Pre-Budget Dialogue
On Friday 20th March 2015, UDN participated in an Anti-Corruption Marathon organised by the Church of Uganda - Sebei Diocese, who are a local partner of the Democratic Governance Facility. The event, held in Kapchorwa Town, drew over 200 participants from the Sebei region, including the young and old, male and female alike. Several local and national Civil Society Organisations participated in the event, including: UDN, TI, ACCU, CSBAG, Teso Anti-Corruption Coalition (TAC), UDN Community Monitors from Kumi, Tororo and Bukedea Districts, among others as an expression of solidarity in the fight against corruption.
UDN's Executive Director, Mr. Patrick Tumwebaze gave a speech on behalf of the Civil Society fraternity and he thanked all CS actors for their efforts and dedication in Anti-Corruption advocacy, urging all Ugandans to keep up the good fight for a corrupt-free Uganda. The Kapchorwa District RDC, Mrs. Jane Frances Kuka represented the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity as the Chief guest. In her speech, she recogninsed the contribution of Civil Society and reiterated Government commitment to fighting corruption. She also called upon the communities to utilise the institutions in place and provide as much information to the state on matters of corruption to help curb the vice.
The Kapchorwa District Sports Officer decried widespread corruption tendencies within the Sports sector as well as underfunding for Sports promotion in the region and the country as a whole. Government was called upon to increase support for Sports talent nurturing, as a means of overcoming societal challenges like youth unemployment, school dropout rates especially for the girl-child and household poverty. The Bishop of Sebei Diocese (Church of Uganda) also graced the occasion.
DGF pledged continued support towards the anti-corruption marathon activities.
UDN Executive Director, Mr. Patrick Tumwebaze (speaking) introduces UDN community-based monitors working in Teso Sub-region while giving his speech during the Marathon event
UDN as a part of the Civil Society fraternity against Corruption and misuse of Public funds in Uganda welcomed the Anti-Corruption Court's ruling against former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, John Kashaka Muhanguzi and Principal Accountant Henry Bamutura for their role in awarding a contract to supply 70,000 bicycles to LC officials all over the country to a sham company, Ammam Industrial tools and Equipment Ltd Aitel. The fraudulent contract awarding process subsequently led to a financial loss of over UGX 4billion to the Government.
A ruling by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire ordered the accused to both serve 10 years and 10 days in jail, and each is to refund about sh600m to government, as well as being disqualified from any public service job for a period of 10 years. UDN was joined by two other Anti-Corruption agencies namely; the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda and Transparency International (Uganda) in hailing Government efforts thus far in bringing culrprits of mismanagement of public funds to book in a Press Conference held at the Transparency International offices in Ntinda, Kampala on Sunday, 27th July 2014.
UDN Director of Programmes, Julius Kapwepwe Mishambi(centre), displays a compilation of high-level Corruption cases in Uganda since 2000 during the Press Conference, 27th July 2014.
The Civil Society however called upon more government action in terms of expediting the passing of the Anti-Corruption (Ammendment) Bill 2012 that authorises confiscation of property acquired as a result of corruption, and also asked for a revision of the court order to ask the convicts to refund all the UGX 4bn lost and not merely a fraction.
Proceedings of the Press Conference were featured by several national media houses, including NTV, WBS TV, Record TV, NBS TV, Top TV, the Daily Monitor, The New Vision, Radio One and K FM.