By Samuel Sanya and Edward Kayiwa
GOVERNMENT agencies are expected to implement a presidential directive to publicly account for tax payer funds by publishing their expenditure details for the months of January to March, according to the finance ministry.
Keith Muhakanizi, the secretary to the Treasury, said the numbers of ghost workers, especially in the education and health ministries, are expected to significantly drop when payrolls are made public on notice boards.
“The President gave the directive in 2009 and in the next quarter, we expect to see accounting officers publishing their receipts and expenditures on their respective notice boards,” he said.
“I wish to remind you (accounting officers) to adhere to the reporting requirements as stipulated in Paragraph eight of the Budget Execution Circular of June 2013. Accordingly, any ministry, department, agency or local government that does not adhere to these accountability requirements will have their release withheld until there is full compliance,” Muhakanizi explained.
He made the comments at the release of sh2.34 trillion to government ministries, agencies and foreign missions for the third quarter of the current financial year 2013/14.
So far, sh6.67trillion has been released of the sh13 trillion national budget.
The government payroll has been decentralised to make accounting officers more accountable to the public. Hitherto, the public service ministry handled recruitment and payment of wages to government workers through a central payroll.
This made it easy for accounting officers both at the ministry of public service and local government level to create ghost workers and duck responsibility.
Under the new arrangement, the accounting officers will handle the payment of wages, while the public service will carry out routine monitoring.
“The new system is certainly better as it seeks to correct problems in the payroll. We also believe it will minimise delays in payments since the accounting officers will be the ones held responsible for any delays,” Muhakanizi said.
All government agencies are expected to be linked to prepaid telephone and water lines to limit the amounts of outstanding debt to suppliers. The measure is also expected to make government agencies more cost effective and efficient.
No money for Karuma dam
The third quarter budget release does not include funds for the $1.5b (about sh3.9 trillion) Karuma hydropower dam.
The 600Mw project was flagged off late last year by President Yoweri Museveni and is expected to be completed in the year 2018 with 15% funding from Ugandan tax payers.
Uganda’s embassy in the Kigali, Rwanda is the biggest beneficiary in the foreign missions category, with an allocation of sh2b or 33% of the total allocation to foreign missions.
The embassy received a cumulative sh3.7b in the first and second quarters of the current financial year.
Kenneth Mugambe, the director budget at the finance ministry, noted that relatively large funds by vote to the Rwanda embassy will cater for the construction of an embassy building.
Referral hospitals have been allocated a total sh14b. Mbale Referral Hospital will receive the largest chunk of sh1.5b or 11%, closely followed by Naguru Hospital sh1.4b, Mbarara Referral Hospital sh1.14b and Fort Portal Referral Hospital sh1.12b.
The defence ministry will receive sh163b, the Judiciary sh12b, the Uganda Road Fund sh76b, while the oil refinery project has been allocated sh9b.
Funds were also released to fund the marking exercise of primary and secondary level exams by the Uganda National Examinations Board.
Absorption of funds
Muhakanizi noted that absorption of government funds shot up to 90% by the end of December 2013, although much of the funds were absorbed between November and December.
The lack of work plans has led to poor service delivery and high inflation in the past, according to analysts. Under the new transparency regime, government agencies are required to provide work plans before budgeted funds are released to aid absorption of funds.
“Absorption of funds has tremendously improved although we still have questions as to why most of the absorption took place in the last two months of the year,” Muhakanizi said.
While most agencies used their allocated funds for the first two quarters of the year, Lira Referral Hospital has only absorbed 33% or sh1.76b of their allocated funds.
Muhakanaizi noted that the finance ministry has piloted the implementation of the Treasury Single Account to improve cash management, where accounting officers will no longer be able to keep idle resources on bank accounts.
“The reforms undertaken in financial management have been successful so far. I am glad that even more people are getting interested in how public funds are being managed. Therefore, we shall continue to advance transparency,” he said.
He further reiterated that funds under the education capitation grant, under which the universal secondary school education and universal primary education schools are funded, will continue to be released directly to school accounts to ensure that the schools get funds in a timely manner in line with the school term calendar.
Julius Kapwepwe of the Uganda Debt Network noted that while absorption has improved, there is need to improve monitoring procedures as some projects are not providing value for money.