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Local governments given new budget priorities

By Apollo Mubiru, Samuel Sanya

Added 14th October 2020 10:53 AM

Government is shifting from sector planning to programme-based approach

Local governments given new budget priorities

Finance minister Matia Kasaija.

Government is shifting from sector planning to programme-based approach

The Government has highlighted key priority budget areas to local governments to guide the 2021/2022 financial year budgeting process.

The finance minister, Matia Kasaija, named peace and stability,infrastructure development, education, health and salaries as areas districts and municipalities should focus on.

"It is a do-or-die. You must prioritise. A wise person prioritises because there can never be enough money. Salary should have a first call on your budget. You can forget anything else but not salaries. Do not joke with human resource, you should motivate yourstaff for better productivity," Kasaija said.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the Government to rethink the fiscal strategy, most especially on domestic revenue mobilisation and improvement of public spending efficiency.

"We must be frugal this time because our fiscal deficit has widened. Ensure that schools and health facilities are well looked after while budgeting," he said. The minister was speaking during a local government regional budget consultative workshop for selected districts and municipalities in the central region at Ridar Hotel in Seeta Mukono, last week.

He noted that COVID-19 and other natural disasters had impacted lives and economic activities, posing challenges that include reduction in domestic revenue, leading to increase in fiscal deficit from 4.9% in 2018/19 to 7.2% in the 2019/20 fiscal year. The deficit is projected to widen further to 9.8% in the next financial year, the minister said.

Kasaija said in order to resuscitate the economy and aligning the budget to the National Development Plan III (NDP III), the Government is shifting from sector planning to programme-based approach.

"I call upon you to embrace NDP III approach to reflect your local government specific plans," he said while imploring accounting officers to help their respective political leaders in budget preparations and execution process.

Kasaija added that following the approval of NDP III, a comprehensive review has been undertaken. This is aimed at aligning the chart of accounts to NDP III structure and to eliminate duplications and overlaps in revenue and expenditure codes in both accounting systems at the centre and the local governments.

"You are, therefore, expected to prepare your budgets for the financial year 2012/22 in line with the revised chart of accounts and programme budget system," he said.

So far, 18 programmes have been earmarked in planning for the next financial year budget under the theme Industrialisation for Inclusive Growth, Employment and Wealth Creation.

Mukono municipality mayor George Kagimu said local governments need more funding from the central government, noting that the biggest percentage goes to administrative costs.

"We are more likely to have more councillors whose allowances are based on 20% local revenue of the previous financial year, which has been affected by COVID-19," he said.

The Kassanda district chairperson, Zayid Kalema, said the new administrative units were gazetted, but not yet operationalised and yet the Electoral Commission is going ahead to nominate leaders.

"It will be shameful to have leaders in office without support," he said.

What should be prioritised

Sophie Nampewo Njuba, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) budget policy specialist, said consultations in 86 districts indicate that health facilities are under staffed with equipment that is inaccessible to persons with disabilities. She said schools have inadequate infrastructure, with many learners still having classes under trees.

Njuba said clean and safe water coverage is still low at 63%, even when several communities are facing flooding. She also said local governments should prioritise routine maintenance of community access roads and improve asset management and disposal.

"The shift from sector to the programme approach will combine the efforts of various actors. A programme such as human capital development will cut across agriculture, health and education among others. This will reduce duplication," she noted.

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