Ugandan Government Commits to Civil Society Participation in the Latest Budget

The Government of Uganda has promised to incorporate proposals from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) into the 2016/17 National Budget. This was revealed by the State Minister for Finance, Fred Omach, during a pre-budget dialogue with CSOs in Kampala on March 18, 2016. “We shall pick the highlights and the best you have,” Omach said after acknowledging the critical role CSOs play in influencing government policies.

Minister Omach also signed the commitment card aimed at funding the gap of 36 billion Uganda shillings (almost USD $100,000) needed to recruit 3,542 health workers for general hospitals in the next financial year. He told the audience of teachers, farmers, university students, and representatives from civil society and the private sector that the budget has been presented to parliament and, starting next week, legislators will start debating and scrutinizing it. He urged CSOs and others to present their budget proposals to the parliament.

Julius Mukunda, the Coordinator of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), appealed to Minister Omach to rein in government officials who don’t want to work with civil society. “Some Government officials don’t want to work with civil society yet we bring alternative policy options,” Mukunda said. He also pointed out that the government should be held accountable for the 52 trillion Uganda shillings spent in the last five years, since there is not much to show for the money.

Mukunda was supported by Patrick Katabazi of CSBAG, who asked the minister what measures have been put in place to ensure that there is value for money. Katabazi raised issue of social protection, which has a deficit of 8.7 billion Uganda shillings despite the government promising to inject more money into it.

In his remarks on government economic performance over the last five years, Minister Omach told the audience that the country has witnessed high economic growth in the last two decades. “Government has exercised prudent macroeconomic management and the economic growth has been more inclusive,” Omach said. He also pointed out that the budget in the coming financial year will be 21 trillion Uganda shillings, a figure slightly lower than this financial year’s budget. Most importantly, the minister stressed the fact that 70 percent of this budget will be funded from revenues raised by the Ugandan government, which wasn’t the position back in 2000 when the budget was largely funded by donors.

In his remarks, the Director of Budget at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Mr. Kenneth Mugambe, emphasized the relationship between civil and the finance ministry. “We have strong relationships with CSOs because they complement government’s work and have brought to us evidence which we have used to make some public finance reforms,” Mugambe said. He appealed for CSOs to work with the government to ensure Accounting Officers are held accountable. He also mentioned that, starting next financial year, the finance ministry will be more stringent on monitoring performance contracts for the Accounting Officers and will enforce penalties against those that underperform.

Mugambe discussed the crosscutting issues that affect the implementation of government programs. This includes inadequate human resource, poor planning in procurement leading to poor absorption levels, irregularities in the bidding process, as well as weak contract management, among other things.

CSOs in Uganda are now set to engage parliament on the sector specific budget proposals before it approves the budget by 28 April 2016.

This pre-budget dialogue was organized in partnership with the following CSBAG members: DSW, ACTADE, Food Rights Alliance, SEATINI, PELUM-Uganda, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), and the Uganda Debt Network (UDN).

This post originally appeared in CBAG Breaking News.

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