On Sunday, 1st June 2014, UDN hosted a Press Conference in conjunction with other CSBAG members on Civil Society Concerns over the Public Finance Bill 2012. UDN hailed several amendments in the Bill that had been effected as a result of continuous Civil Society lobbying, including the following: i) the strategic controls on the management of the supplementary budgets, ii) Alignment of the Charter of Fiscal Responsibilities (CFR) to the National Development Plan and the Vision 2040, iii) Government consultation on the budget preparation with all relevant stakeholders made mandatory.
However, the Civil Society in its Press Statement continues to call for Government's re-consideration of key issues of concern within the Bill, such as:
i) The disbanding of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget which oversees how the Parliament Budget Office works;
ii) The lack of a strong provision within the Bill to deter misuse of public funds through "Classified Expenditure"; and
iii)The restriction against use of Oil Revenues for recurrent expenditure such as within the Health, Education and Agriculture sectors.
The Conference was held at the UDN Secretariat premises in Ntinda, Kampala and was attended by journalists from over 15 local media houses.
UDN's Director of Programmes, Mr. Julius Kapwepwe Mishambi (left) responds to questions by journalists during the Press Conference at UDN offices, Ntinda-Kampala. He is flanked by the CSBAG Coordinator, Mr. Julius Mukunda (centre) and Ms. Christine Byiringiro, a Programme Assistant at UDN
The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo defined Corruption not as a cancer but an indicator of an ultimate degeneration of morals. He was speaking as Guest of Honour at the recently concluded Western Region Inter University Seminar themed, "The Role of Youth in the fight against Corruption". The seminar was the second of a series of such events involving University students that UDN holds in a bid to bring the youth on board in the fight against graft in Uganda. UDN held another such debate in November 2013 at Makerere University in Kampala.
Hon. Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo addressing University Students during the Inter-University Guest Speaker Seminar held at Acacia Hotel in Mbarara, 29th May 2014
During the meeting, students from Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Kampala International University (KIU-Western Campus), Bishop Stuart University and Ankole Western University shared their views about Corruption and other Governance malpractices and exchanged ideas on how they as youth can contribute to the fight to curb these social evils. The students also benefitted from insightful discussions by the Guest of Honour, Hon. Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo, former Ethics minister, and Anti-Corruption activist Hon. Miria Matembe, as well as Mbarara Municipality Woman MP, Hon. Emma Boona.
The Ethics Minister expressed dismay at the fact that corruption in Government was not a one-man problem but a chain-linked syndicate between agencies and noted that corruption continued to thrive as a result of apathy. He said that Government is a group of entities and that each entity was independent in functionality and hence should take responsibility for its actions. He called upon the Civil Society to avoid the fallacy of generalisation by declaring the entire Government corrupt.
Hon. Matembe on the other hand castigated the Executive continually undermining the autonomous functionality of the other arms of government and noted that Government's continued interference with the functions of the Legislature and the Judiciary was a clear indicator of the former's lack of political will to fight corruption. She called upon the Executive to respect the other institutions and also facilitate them better to enable them perform their duties, for a corruption-free Uganda.
The Mbarara Municipality Woman MP, Hon. Emma Boona called upon the youth to take a personal initiative and decision not to be corrupt, following her example. UDN's Executive Director, Patrick Tumwebaze also challenged the youth to utilize the platforms in place including the Office of the IGG, Auditor General's Office and others to report cases of corruption in their communities. He also introduced UDN's toll-free sms reporting line as an alternative reporting channel.
UDN Executive Director, Patrick Tumwebaze delivers his opening remarks during the event
Seminar participants pose for a group photo after the event
On 16th May, 2014, a team from UDN and other Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) members met Mr. Kenneth Mugambe, the Director of the Budget Office in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Developmen to discuss the Civil Society perspective of the 2014/15 National Budget.A number of CSOs were represented at the meeting, including; the Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda, African Youth Development Link (AYDL), the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) etc. During the meeting, the Civil Society members presented a number of concerns, such as; i) Low allocations to the Agricultural Sector, ii) Continued low performance by URA, iii) Need for credit facilities for small scale farmers, iv) Worrying national debt accumulation levels and the need for compliance to controls by Government to deal with domestic arrears, v) Need for proper management of Proposed loans and contraction processes (the need to learn from past mistakes e.g. with CAIIP I & II) and vi) Need for more Local Government Transfers which are key forproper service delivery.
Among other issues, Mr. Kenneth Mugambe pointed out that concessional borrowing is beneficial when the money is used well and better returns achieved. He also noted that domestic arrears would be addressed within two years, with measures such as pre-paid meters for utilities in Government facilities being put in place. Mr. Mugambe further hailed UDN's campaign against the unjustified expenditure on Government vehicles and revealed that the Ministry of Finance, for instance, had placed a ban on further purchase of vehicles after an independent study by the Ministry also revealed that they were consuming a lot of funds.
The Director also informed the visiting Civil Society members that emphasized that Government had plans to organise quarterly joint press conferences regarding how public funds are being used and that Civil Society would be invited to these meetings. He added that Government was now tackling the Budget Transparency initiative with more vigilance in order to keep the public in the know. He called on other CSOs to actively participate in tracking of public resources.