By Henry Sekanjako and John Odyek
CIVIL society organizations (CSOs) under the body umbrella Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) have asked government to consider setting up a special committee of eminent persons to scrutinize and monitor government’s classified (Secret) expenditure.
In their analysis of the Public Finance Bill 2012 that is currently before parliament, CSBAG said there was need for government to involve an independent committee to study the expenditure of resources under the classified budget for accountability purposes.
“In the recent past classified expenditure has been used as a basis to misuse public funds. The current provision on the bill is not strong enough to deter misuse of public funds through classified expenditure,” said Julius Mukunda the coordinator CSBAG.
The director programs Uganda Debt Network Julius Mishambi added that; “we are not against this kind of expenditure or saying it should phased out but what we want is to have eminent people like religious leaders to ensure there is accountability”.
According to the Public Finance Bill, classified expenditure is money appropriated in confidence for defence and national security purposes.
Section 20 sub section (2) of bill provides that confidentiality of the defence and national security matters, a budget for classified expenditure shall be presented as a single line item.
Addressing journalists in Kampala, CSBAG also expressed concern over the proposal by the Bill to have the parliament’s committee on budget disbanded saying it would affect parliament’s role on oversight and accountability.
The CSOs want the committee retained to help in scrutiny of wasteful expenditure by government during the budgeting process.
CSBAG decried the delay by parliament to pass the Bill saying it would guide implementation of the activities in the local and national budget processes, promote public accountability and give guidance on transparent management of oil resources.
They criticized Parliament and government for not adequately assessing the previous budget performance to inform the current budget priorities especially in a situation where local governments report one year after on their performance.
“The sector ministries despite receiving the work plans and performance reports from local governments do not provide any feedback on the reports, which implies that the issues raised in these reports are not addressed and continue to affect service delivery as well as accountability,” said Julius Mishambi.
The passing and implementation of the new Public Finance Bill 2012 hit a hitch as Parliament went on recess without passing it. The Bill seeks to provide for the fiscal and macroeconomic management, provide for multiyear budgeting to cater for long term projects.
The Bill provides for contingency, excess and supplementary funds. It provides for the roles of minister for finance, secretary to the treasury and accounting officers.
The Bill also seeks to repeal the Public Finance and Accountability Act 2003 and the Budget Act 2001 to consolidate them. But MPs have opposed repealing the Budget Act because it would scrap the Parliament budget office which has experts scrutinizing the budget to support Parliament.
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CSOs want special committee on secret budget expenditure