OP-ED

Uganda’s Budget Conundrum: A Tale of Shs72tn Budget and Parliamentary Hypocrisy

By Wabusimba Amiri

The 14 trillion shilling ‘corrigenda,’ amendments that have been hastily added to the budget to raise the 2024/25 budget to 72 trillion shillings prioritize the interests of the elite over the needs of the general populace have sparked outrage. This represents a staggering Shs19.394 trillion increase from the Shs52.736 trillion approved for FY 2023/24, is unfolding amidst political tensions and allegations of misconduct among parliamentary members raises red flags about transparency and accountability.

The question of how these amendments were incorporated, who initiated them, and the rationale behind them, are critical issues that the Parliament must address; in 2017, a similar budget increase was met with widespread criticism from civil society organizations and the general public.

This isn’t the first time Ugandan MPs have been involved in controversies surrounding budget allocations and personal benefits.

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In 2011 the Oil Bribery Scandal, allegations surfaced that several high-ranking officials, including ministers Sam Kutesa, Hillary Onek, and Amama Mbabazi, had accepted bribes from oil companies. This scandal highlighted the endemic corruption within the government and the lack of accountability in managing the country’s natural resources. MPs like Theodore Ssekikubo, Wilfred Niwagaba, and Abdu Katuntu were vocal in demanding accountability and transparency, highlighting the ongoing struggle against corruption in Uganda.

Similarly in 2013, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) scandal involved allegations of corruption and mismanagement of workers’ savings. Parliamentarians, including Ssekikubo, were instrumental in exposing the irregularities, leading to calls for reforms and greater oversight and subsequently in 2017, the removal of the presidential age limit in 2017 was another contentious issue, with MPs like Ssekikubo and other opposition figures strongly opposing the move.

The amendment allowed President Yoweri Museveni to extend his long-standing rule, raising questions about democratic principles and the concentration of power. 

Most recently in 2020, during the pandemic, there were reports of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds meant for COVID-19 relief. MPs and civil society organizations criticized the government for failing to properly account for the funds, emphasizing the need for transparency and accountability in handling public resources.

In 2017 still, a similar incident involving signature manipulation on a budget document emerged, with the individuals involved ultimately disappearing without facing consequences. This raises serious concerns about the potential for accountability, transparency, and justice within the Parliament.

Meanwhile, some Members of Parliament (MPs) are peddling a censure motion spearheaded by Hon Theodore Ssekikubo a vocal critic of the government and other position MPs targeting parliamentary commissioners who awarded themselves 400Million and 500 million shillings unconstitutionally to the former LoP.

This motion echoes past efforts to hold leaders accountable but also raises concerns about political motivations which is seen as a betrayal of public trust, especially when many Ugandans live on less than a dollar a day. This motion reflects the internal power struggles within parliament with some MPs using this opportunity to gain political capital ahead of the 2026 general elections, positioning themselves as champions of accountability and good governance.

In 2018, a similar attempt to censure the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, ended in controversy.

Uganda’s political landscape is marked by repeated incidents of corruption, mismanagement, and political manoeuvring. The current budget controversy and the censure motion are just the latest examples of a deeper systemic problem. For meaningful change to occur, there must be a concerted effort to prioritize the needs of the people, uphold democratic principles, and foster a culture of transparency and accountability.

With the 2026 general elections looming, every MP is desperate to stay in the news, touting their concern for voters while seeking relevance, the focus on securing votes and maintaining public image becomes increasingly acute. political survival than the well-being of their constituents paints a bleak picture of the current state of Ugandan governance.

The current situation demands a paradigm shift in the Parliament’s approach. Instead of focusing on self-preservation and extravagant benefits, members of Parliament must prioritize the needs of the people.  It is imperative for the Members of Parliament to critically review the budget, address the loopholes, and ensure that public funds are allocated and utilized in a manner that truly benefits the common person.

The ongoing efforts by some MPs to collect signatures for the censure motion should be rooted in a genuine desire for accountability and good governance, not just political grandstanding. The time for political expediency is over; it’s time for genuine service and a commitment to building a better future for all Ugandans.

The author; Wabusimba Amiri is a diplomate, Journalist, Communication Specialist and Human Right Activist 

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