By Umaru Kashaka
KAMPALA - The MPs on the parliamentary committee of budget have queried the cost of sh912m that Uganda incurred in hosting the 15th East African Community (EAC) summit of heads of state that was held in November 30 last year.
They observed that the cost was too high after being informed by the ministry of East African Community affairs that the funds were spent on meals and accommodation, workshops and seminars, publicity, security, protocol, entertainment, and hire of conference halls.
They inquired about the standard obligations of a country hosting such a summit under the EAC.
“The committee observes that the expenditure particularly on accommodation appears to be too generous as the same offer is not availed to Ugandans when they attend similar meetings in other countries,” the Ntenjeru North MP and committee chairperson Amos Lugoloobi said.
Legislators recommended that in future such generosity should only be limited to heads of state and the ministers responsible for East African Community Affairs.
The MPs, who have sharply differed over the move by the finance ministry to seek a supplementary budget of sh237b for unforeseen expenditures that includes the aforementioned funds, also raised eyebrows at sh60b required by Police for additional recruitment and training of 3, 500 personnel as part of the 2016 election road map.
They observed that the kind of supplementary request made by the Police annually, over the last five years have been consumptive in nature and recur several times. They therefore cannot be deemed to be of an emergency nature, the Tororo County MP and shadow minister for finance Geoffrey Ekanya argued.
MPs say the cost of hosting the EAC summit was too high. FILE PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
They said Government has consistently under financed critical activities in the Police Force, and yet most of the activities in question cannot be foregone, something they said has seen the Police consistently seeking supplementary funding to the tune of sh60b over the last five years.
“The committee observed that it is an abuse of the budgeting process and to the Parliament that appropriates. This is so because Government submits figures for appropriation well knowing that they are not realistic and that they will obviously come back to Parliament through a supplementary request and get more funds appropriated, and in many cases after it has already spent the funds,” said the Agago County MP, Amos Okot.
They appealed to the ministry of finance to raise the budget ceiling of the Police Force to accommodate the sh60b that is annually requested for under a supplementary expenditure.
Finance minister, Maria Kiwanuka on Thursday this week will present the 2014/15 national budget to Parliament at Serena Kampala Hotel.
The Opposition Chief Whip and Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal also argued that Ministry of Agriculture failed to account for sh2b they said was urgently required to purchase 1,000 Ankole cattle meant for the Cross Breeding and Conservation Programme in the Aswa and Rwengyere ranches.
“There was also concern from the committee that animals for the program should have been got from Northern Uganda so as to improve the incomes of the people in the area instead of bringing to them animals from elsewhere,” added Okot in an interview with New Vision.
However, officials from the ministry of Agriculture told the committee the cows were in Rushenjere - another holding ranch in western Uganda.
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