With an election around the corner, spendthrift M7’s gravy train gets rolling
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
Ugandans are bracing for the worst from the highly profligate Museveni as the country enters another election cycle.
Museveni has already put in a request for Ushs 677 billion for his State House during the financial year that starts on July 1, 2020. That is over and above what he spends under a separate vote for President’s Office, which is a ministry of sorts because it happens to be presided over by a minister.
Allocations to key ministries and departments pale in comparison to the budget for Museveni’s largely opaque expenditures. In other words, quipped one Kampala wag, it is a looting machine like Uganda has never seen in history!
For instance the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation which presides over Museveni’s pseudo interest in science has been allocated a paltry Ushs 163 billion for the 2020/21 financial year. How can such a meagre budget fund and nurture a domestic technology industry, puzzled observers ask.
Tourism, billed as the leading foreign exchange earner has been allocated just 193 billion shillings.
The security and works sectors which are barely accountable and often act as sluice gates for Museveni’s backdoor expenditure have meanwhile been given generous allocations. For a standing army of 45,000 troops and no active engagements apart from the UN financed AMISOM, the security has been allocated nearly a billion dollars – or shillings 3.6 trillion. The “teargas sector” won’t be complaining of funds indeed!
The Works Ministry, which has never absorbed all the money given to it in any year, will take Ushs 6.4 trillion. A cynical observer calculated that at that rate, Museveni will be spending $504,020 per day; $21,000 per hour and $350 per minute during fiscal 2020/21.
The allocations to Museveni appear to have set the pace for everybody. For example the UPDF, already covered under the security budget, is asking for a “special allocation” of Ushs 16 billion – purportedly to protect Museveni during the presidential campaigns that roll off later this year.
Not to be outdone, the President’s office has also submitted a Ushs 7 billion budget allocation, supposedly for the swearing in ceremony in May 2021. Never mind that these are activities that are supposed to be managed by mandated agencies of the state but who wants to miss the once in 5-years’ gravy train?
Now, for anybody familiar with Ugandan politics, President Museveni has been on the campaign trail since June 2016. He has distorted national expenditure plans with requests for additional cash well above the statutory limit of 3 percent of the total budget for any government agency in a given financial year.
Such limits are however, only meant to dupe Uganda’s development partners aka donors. In May 2011, just one month to the end of budget year, Museveni convened at State House Entebbe, a meeting of the NRM caucus, which enjoys an insurmountable majority in parliament.
The subject was the retroactive approval of some US$ 740 million (Ushs 1.7 trillion at the time) that had been spent on the purchase of some 6 fighter jets from Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau. Obviously inflated, the procurement had been done in 2010, months to a much-feared election in which Museveni’s former confidant and premier was going to challenge him for the top seat.
The malleable legislature approved the purchase (at the price of their own cut of course), despite the fact that it was well above the 3 percent limit.
Earlier the same year in June, just days to the end of the 2009/10 financial year, the executive submitted a request for some Ushs 456 billion in “supplementary expenditure”. Why such a request should come so late in the year puzzled legislators who were initially unanimous in opposing it.
As it turned out, approval would be retroactive because the money had already been spent anyway. All Museveni wanted was parliament to legitimize his grand larceny.
The peoples’ representatives were concerned that to meet the request for Museveni’s need for additional money, the cash-strapped treasury was proposing to raise cut allocations to the social sector. Hence the budgets for education, health and agriculture were in Museveni’s cross hairs.
But their opposition was futile because the horse had already bolted from the barn. The money was needed to cover for over-spending by the Ministry of Defense and, once again, the President’s Office!
With an unprecedented challenge to his rule by the youth movement People Power, Ugandans can only brace for the worst as Museveni goes into overdrive, renting support. He has already spent considerable amounts of taxpayer’ money on illegal outfits that he keeps under the wings of his office. He has appointed “ghetto envoys” on whom he has lavished money to make those supporting Bobi Wine envy them.
Recently, besides a US$200,000 ride, he authorized US$ 800,000 to be released to folk singer and one time critic Ronald Mayinja, to launch a parallel movement to people power.
The looting machine is swallowing the country in real time!