By Joyce Namutebi and Paul Kiwuuwa
Delay by government to construct a military referral hospital has resulted into huge expenditure incurred on treatment of soldiers abroad, the parliamentary committee on defence and internal affairs has said.
The concern is contained in the committee’s report on the Ministry of Defence’s policy statement and budget for 2013/2014.
“The committee notes with concern that in the last two years, the Ministry of Defence has turned up with similar explanations as to the causes of the delay,” the MPs noted.
The ministry, according to the report, maintains that establishment of a military referral hospital has been delayed by budgetary constraints. It is also points out that designs of the hospital will be reviewed to make it more affordable and pave way for commencement of its construction and completion within the next three years.
The committee, however, recommended that the minister undertakes on a quarterly basis to brief the committee on tangible progress on the construction and completion of the referral hospital. “There should be no more treatment of soldiers outside the country after the three years,” the MPs said.
The report, which is yet to be debated by Parliament, does not state how much the ministry spends on treatment of soldiers abroad.
The MPs demanded thorough audit of the ministry’s classified expenditure in order to ensure value for money. The budget for classified expenditure has increased from Sh122b in financial year 2012/2013 to over Sh300b in 2013/2014, according to the report.
On desertions in the army, the committee members agreed to set up a sub-committee to look at the underlying issues such as imbalances in training and promotion.
The committee described the desertions as major threat to national security because they undermine operations and also contribute to general crime in the country. Increased desertions, the committee said, “exert a huge cost on the military especially considering that the cost of training, feeding, clothing and medical care are eroded and the process of apprehending such deserters is equally costly.”
The committee recommended that the National Enterprise Corporation, which is the commercial arm of the army, be capitalized to the tune of Sh4b per year for the next four fiscal years. They noted that every commercial venture needs capital to grow without which it faces risk of extinction.