Parliament questions finance minister on budget cuts

During the plenary on Wednesday, a matter of national importance was raised by James Kaberuka, the Kinkizi West MP questioning the budget cuts

Minister Musasizi

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Parliament has tasked the Minister of Finance to explain the budget cuts to different government entities that were effected in the first quarter release for the current financial year.

During the plenary on Wednesday, a matter of national importance was raised by James Kaberuka, the Kinkizi West MP questioning the budget cuts by the Ministry of Finance contrary to appropriation made by parliament.

In the release of funds for the first quarter, several government entities received less money than they were supposed to. The Ministry of Finance released 10.25 trillion Shillings for the first quarter against the expected 14.57 trillion. This is out of the total 48.1 trillion budget for the current financial year 2022/2023.

Parliament’s Finance Committee earlier on Tuesday learnt from Henry Musasizi, the Minister of State for Finance in charge of General Duties that the Ministry would have mobilized additional funds to cover the deficit for the first quarter through borrowing but this was not possible due to increasing cost of domestic borrowing, efforts to limit the rate of borrowing, and general deadline in consumer demand that may have an impact on revenue forecast.

“Legally, who is responsible for appropriation in view of the budget? After the Appropriation Act is in place, does Finance have powers to review the budget?” Speaker Among asked after MP Kaberuka’s query.

Wilfred Niwagaba, the Shadow Attorney General emphasized that the power to appropriate is by Parliament and that once the House has passed the Appropriation Act and the President assents to it, it becomes law.

Niwagaba says that for anybody to revisit the law in anyway, he or she must go back to parliament in form of an amendment Bill for parliament to amend that Act.

Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the Attorney General agreed with Niwagaba’s legal interpretation but noted that MPs were mixing up issues.

“There is an issue of cash flow, once you have the Appropriations Bill and the Act passed then you have to determine how much money you have available and the person who budgets…then tells you out of the 5 trillion required, I only have 1 trillion. The law is silent on who does that, so the person who budgets then determines what he apportions to different entities,” he said in part.

Kiwanuka added that this is not an amendment to the Act but a cash flow management issue. Speaker Among then described the act by the finance ministry as financial re-engineering. She however said that what parliament appropriated should be availed to the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies once the money is available.

Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira Municipality MP argued that parliament passed the budget against several sources of funding presented by the Minister of Finance and it is indiscipline for the Ministry not to return to parliament in case of any changes.

Musasizi agreed with parliament’s appropriation power but told MPs that they release funds in accordance with the cash flow. He said that they are optimistic to achieve the objective of appropriation as the financial year progresses.

Anita Among, the Speaker of Parliament reminded Musasizi to respect the institution of parliament and the Constitutional requirements regarding the appropriation of funds.

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