Tamale Mirundi is one of those people who know very well that as long as President Museveni wants something done and it requires money, no body will stop him as long as he remains head of State. He is the type who gossips cheaply and tries to show those who listen to him that he masters his stuff, but his credibility is long gone. Like many Ugandans who are in to earn a living which ever course the country takes, his problem is well understood. So, to me his reasoning like in this case is simply childish.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
BLAME 'LARGE' PRESIDENTIAL BUDGET ON MPs, SAYS TAMALE MIRUNDI
By Yasiin Mugerwa
Posted Friday, July 22 2011 at 00:00
Ugandan Lawmakers and civil society organisations on Thursday kept the spotlight on the Shs150 billion Presidency budget, berating what they described as an “untamed appetite” and questionable use of taxpayers’ money by the highest office in the land.
But even as critics lamented the failure to slash “wasteful expenditure” at a time when the country’s economy is taking a beating from double digit inflation and unprecedented volatility in the foreign exchange market, Presidential Spokesperson Tamale Mirundi, chose to advise MPs to block the budget if they so wished.
President not king
“The President doesn’t have a key to State coffers. If there is extravagance, the MPs should be the ones to blame,” Mr Tamale said. “They should tell us why they keep approving this money. And before they accuse the President of being insensitive to the needs of the people, let them come to Parliament on bicycles and cut their salaries.”
Mr Mirundi justified the expenditure proposals, saying unlike a king who rarely ventures out of his palace, the President has an obligation to visit the people who voted for him.
“He must see what is going on, that is why under the Constitution he is obliged to take over the administration of a district if things are not going well,” Mr Mirundi said.
Other officials at State House asked the media and lawmakers to understand that the Shs150 billion Presidency budget is not restricted to merely catering for the personal welfare of the President, the Vice President and their immediate families.
Calculations done by this newspaper show that by spending more than Shs14.8 billion on travel in-land, the Presidency will, on average, be shelling out over Shs41 million per day on this budget item alone.
“This budget is a clear indication that the President has lost touch with the reality. Elsewhere, presidents are proposing austerity measures to cut on wastage but our President is doing the reverse,” Mr Geoffrey Ekanya, the shadow Finance Minister said.
“With such State House spending, it’s evident that doctors will continue to flee the country, teachers and nurses will continue getting Shs200,000 per month, the country will continue to have only four neurosurgeons, and women will continue to die in labour.”
Closer examination of the presidency budget reveals that Shs6.3 billion has been pegged to classified expenditure. This brings the total amount of money to be spent without the possibility of adequate parliamentary oversight to Shs12.4 billion when the Shs6.1 billion proposed for presidential donations is included.
Such expenditure would not be possible if Parliament was allowed to exercise its role of providing checks and balances, according to Executive Director at the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda, Ms Cissy Kagaba.
Civil society call
“There is no way such money can be approved,” Ms Kagaba said, pointing out that hiding money under the Presidency “means corruption and lack of accountability.”
“State House has become a liability to the country,” Ms Kagaba said. “We would like to see MPs cutting State House and Office of the President’s budget and ensuring that there is accountability.”
Ms Kagaba observed that “this extravagance must stop to ensure that money goes to productive areas like agriculture whose budget was cut. We also want to see value for money and accountability must start with the Presidency.”
Putting President Museveni’s proposed budget for travel around the country in context, the Shs12.4 billion in question would treat more than 1.24 million cases of malaria sickness -- the biggest killer disease in Uganda, which claims 320 lives everyday. On the open market, a course of coartem malaria medication goes for Shs10,000.
A former shadow minister for finance also raised questions about the Shs7.5 billion allocated to patriotism clubs and the Patriotism Secretariat, totaling.
Mr Oduman Okello said the project has never taken off in the proposed 5,000 secondary schools, and accountability for money (about Shs3 billion) previously taken to promote patriotism remains unknown.
“Anything to do with schools is a responsibility of Ministry of Education and not the Presidency. [This] the reason we are paying for air. Why does the President insist that he is a better educator than educationists in Ministry of Education?” Mr Okello asked.
More health centres?
In Mr Okello’s estimation, if the Shs7.5 billion was spent on building Health Centre IIs, at an average cost of Shs45million per facility, the country can easily have 166 new health centres at parish level.
“The ordinary citizens … who can barely afford a meal are taxed to the marrow, and any suggestions for relief in form of relaxation of taxes on fuel, they say government will lose revenue. But revenue for what? The answer is simple; revenue to ensure maximum comfort for the President.”
Additional queries surround the Shs8.6 billion for buying medals and Shs6.1 billion for donations. Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi criticised the figures as an insult to the poor Ugandans who have nothing to eat.
“The President’s donations have never been audited yet 300,000 Ugandans in need of ARVs cannot access them. As a country we cannot pretend that this budget is pro-people,” he said.
Current public health policy is that, due to resource constraints, all new HIV/Aids patients deserving of antiretroviral treatment are placed on a waiting list. A slot opens when a patient dies; highlighting an emerging crisis even as Health ministry officials claim there is no scarcity of ARVs.
There are about 500,000 HIV-infected individuals in need of treatment, but only 200,000 are getting it, while latest statistics show that additional 110,000 new infections are recorded every year.
At a cost of around $1,500 (Shs375,000) needed to treat a per person living with the HIV/Aids annually, the money for donations and medals budgeted under the Presidency Budget could be used to treat about 4,000 Ugandans every year.