Parliament’s Committee on Budget on Tuesday approved the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs to get an extra Shs369.9 billion in the supplementary budget tabled by the Ministry’s State Minister, Bright Rwamirama.
According to Rwamirama, Shs60.9 billion is for special meals, Shs22.3 billion will buy fuel for land forces and Shs13.1 billion is meant for the air force’s fuel bill. On the other hand, Shs24.6 billion is for clothing and Shs2 billion will go towards clearing medical expenses while Shs247 billion is classified expenditure.
The committee members supported the request for the supplementary budget, saying that the country’s security largely depends on the effectiveness of the ministry responsible for keeping Ugandans from external aggression as well as rebel activities.
The Committee Chairperson, Amos Lugoloobi (Njeru North) said it is a risk to let the ministry operate on a budget deficit. “How can the ministry in charge of a country’s security survive on borrowing from suppliers of important items like food, fuel and staff clothing? This can cause problems not only to the force, but to the suppliers too,” he said.
Col. Felix Kulayigye (UPDF Representative) was worried that the ministry’s image would get tainted if it continued borrowing without paying back. “The ministry needs to urgently settle debts not only to save its image, but also to be able to perform effectively,” he said.
Peter Ogwang (Usuk County) said the ministry had enabled the current developments by maintaining peace and stability.
“Our sons and daughters have sacrificed but as legislators and a country, we seem not to be prioritising the Ministry of Defence. These gentlemen and women should be well facilitated to protect our country,” he said.
Alex Byarugaba, the Isingiro South MP, stated that the issues upon which money was requested for are key in the operations of the military. “We have given a lot of money to institutions that have had a lot of questionable expenditures with no results. At least the UPDF has not let us down so far,” he said.
Meanwhile MP Opolot Patrick Isiagi (Kachumbala County) faulted the ministry for requesting less than what is required to cover for all the medical expenses. “The ministry requires Shs3.8 billion for medical expenditures but has requested for Shs2 billion in the supplementary budget. Health should be prioritised and arrears cleared to zero,” he said.
Further Butambala Country MP Muwanga Kivumbi (DP) questioned the need for classified expenditure, saying it was not necessary. “The utilization of this money should be interrogated because such funds can be used for political activities. Legislators should pick interest in knowing where government resources are channeled before approving it,” he said.
Responding to MP Kivumbi’s queries, Minister Rwamirima said classified expenses are used for the intended purpose.
“We cannot put items under classified expenditure into the public domain because we shall be jeopardising our security,” he said.