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.
On 2nd May, 2014, Uganda Debt Network (UDN) signed a contract with the Inspectorate of Government (IG) to implement the Social Accountability and Community Monitoring (SACM) activity of Transparency Accountability and Anti-Corruption component of NUSAF II. The Inspectorate of Government with support from the World Bank initiated the Social Accountability and Community Monitoring (SACM) Activity under the Transparency, Accountability and Anti-Corruption (TAAC) Component of the Second Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF II)in 2012. The SACM is a pilot activity in Uganda with the overall objective to, “build the capacity of communities to monitor government funded projects in order to enhance transparency and accountability.” The IG will work with Uganda Debt Network, as the lead of the Civil Society Organization (CSO) consortium, who were procured through a competitive bidding process.
UDN's Executive Director, Mr. Patrick Tumwebaze signs the SACM implementation contract on behalf of UDN (left) and Director of Programmes, Julius Kapwepwe Mishambi looks on as Secretary to the Inspectorate of Government, Mr. Bageya Waiswa hands over the contract to UDN (right), 2nd May 2014.
Training of Trainers
The UDN-led consortium trained Community Monitors and the Regional Managers from identified Community Monitoring Groups (CMGs) on their (i) roles and responsibilities, (ii) community monitoring, (iii) anti-corruption reporting mechanisms, and (iv) documentation of their activities. The training, which was conducted from 4th–15th May 2014 in Gulu town, was facilitated by the IG, World Bank, UDN and the Office of the Prime Minister. Two consulting firms i.e. Mango Tree and Grameen Foundation also offered additional training support.
The cosortium will also provide ongoing support to each CMG for a period of 6 months. The CMGs will be enrolled into the programme in two major phases, with the first phase (Phase 1) being enrolled in the first month of programme implementation, and the second phase (Phase 2) beginning approximately six months later. Each phase of participants will be of relatively equal in size.
The project is to be officially launched on Thursday, 15th May 2014 at Acholi Inn, Gulu by the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, and the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the World Bank representative in Uganda are expected to grace the event. Other participants include other IG officials, Development Partners and the respective staff of the consortium.
On Tuesday, 15th April 2014, Uganda Debt Network together with other partners under the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) umbrella hosted the annual Pre- Budget Dialogue to discuss the FY 2014/15 National Budget proposals.
The dialogue, held at the UMA Conference Hall in Kampala under the theme, "Every shilling counts: Are the FY 2014/15 Budget Proposals Efficient and Effective to deliver us from Poverty?" drew participants from the Civil Society, the Private Sector, academia, Members of Parliament, Ministry of Finance and small-scale farmers and community monitors from different parts of the country. A total of 235 people (148 males and 87 females) attended the half-day meeting.
The CSBAG presented various CSO perspectives on the budget strategy and priorities for FY 2014/15, highlighting some major concerns like reduction in funding to the education sector and public sector management, inter alia. On the other hand, funds increments to Agriculture, Health, Water and Environment and Works and Transport sectors were applauded.
The CSBAG Statement pointed out some critical activities that are underfunded in the 2014/15 Budget, including wage enhancement for other health workers who are not medical officers at Health Centre IIIs and IVs (UGX 129 bn is required annually to enhance all staff salaries in the sector).
It was noted that the recruitment of health workers at Local Government level and at the Ministry of Health headquarters was crucial to deal with issues of low staffing.