By John Odyek
Senior presidential advisor on finance, planning and economic development Dr. Ezra Suruma has advised Ugandans to keep a keen eye on the Public Finance Bill 2012.
Suruma said citizens have to monitor public expenditure and demand for accountability as required by the Constitution, the Public Finance and Accountability Act 2003.
“As citizens, we need to understand the Bill. There are issues to do with the benefits accruing from oil and powers of Parliament and the Government in the management of oil,” Suruma, a former finance minister, said.
Suruma made the remarks while addressing the annual general meeting of the Uganda Debt Network (UDN) at Hotel Africana.
UDN is an NGO that advocates for good governance in Uganda. Suruma, who is also the UDN chairman, said it is within the rights of citizens to comprehend the Bill and to speak about it.
The Bill is being discussed in Parliament. It intends to establish the Petroleum Investment Fund and provide for the establishment and management of the Petroleum Investment Reserve.
It provides for the sharing of royalties from oil and for accounting for classified expenditure.
It seeks to set up multiyear expenditures, supplementary budgets, contingency funds and excess expenditures. The Bill also seeks to repeal the Public Finance and Accountability Act 2003 and the Budget Act 2001.
“There are over one million civil society organisations in America fighting for the rights of citizens so that their government gets better. Things can fall apart if people do not speak out.” Suruma added that it is the citizens of a country who can improve the standard of living of their country by being courageous enough to speak out on issues that affect them.
“We are responsible to see that our government performs better. Citizens should speak out about what is bad and mediocre about their government so it improves,” Suruma said.
He said when he was the finance minister; he found national budgets too complicated for ordinary people to understand.
“The budgets were not written in ‘English’ but in technical jargon,” he said.
Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka recently said as the budget is largely locally funded, people should demand for accountability for their money.
“Follow your money and demand accountability,” Kiwanuka said.