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