Hardly a week after reading the 2020/2021 national budget, Finance, Planning and Economic Development Minister, Matia Kasaija has come under fire over discrepancies contained in his budget speech.
Before an attentive Parliament on June 11, 2020, Kasaija read a Shs 45.4 trillion budget, shockingly, with some figures not corresponding to what was passed by Parliament on April 24.
During Parliament’s plenary sitting on Tuesday, the chairperson of Parliament’s Budget Committee, Amos Lugoolobi (Ntenjeru North) who raised on a matter of national importance and questioned the inconsistencies in the budget speech which he said is an illegality.
Lugoloobi said that whereas Parliament appropriated Shs400 billion for payment of arrears owed by the government to private sector firms, the minister mentioned Shs 673 billion in his address.
He added that although Parliament approved Shs38.5 billion towards the export promotion strategy the minister mentioned Shs 138 billion for the activity.
On the roll-out of the Social Assistance Grant for the Elderly (SAGE), Parliament approved Shs66 billion but Minister Kasaija put it at Shs 107 billion.
Lugoloobi said that the Minister made an error when he mentioned Shs 94 billion as credit allocated to small and medium scale enterprises through Saccos because Parliament appropriated Shs 40 billion towards the same intervention.
Lugoolobi highlighted several other discrepancies in the budget speech including Shs 225 billion for talent support yet the approved budget had Shs 100 billion.
He said it was dangerous to have such a budget speech as there are legal implications regarding the budget process.
“We have a law governing the budget process, if there are changes by government they must be communicated for approval to Parliament before they are pronounced to the public,” said Lugoloobi.
In response, the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga directed that Kasaija appears before Parliament to explain discrepancies contained in his budget speech.
“The Minister is required to come here tomorrow to explain the variances between the Appropriation Bill we passed here and the speech he made on the budget day,” said Kadaga.
She also wondered if President Yoweri Museveni had assented to the Appropriation Bill with the falsified figures.
But MPs said it was insufficient for the minister to simply explain the inconsistences to Parliament, proposing that he appears before and offers an explanation to the Committee on Rules, Discipline and Privileges of Parliament.
“I do not think it is sufficient for him to just come here and explain, let him face the Rules Committee because this is a constitutional matter; it is a serious matter of national importance,” said Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kassanda North).
Kadaga said that the case at hand was a unique one and advised that Parliament will base on the minister’s statement to decide if he should appear before the Rules and Discipline Committee.
In his address to Parliament last week, Museveni said that his team of experts had identified some wastages in the budget which would require cabinet to send it back to Parliament for a review.