By the time Uganda’s 2016 election bid was over, incumbent President Yoweri Museveni was extending his 30 year rule, and major opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was crying foul and being placed under house arrest for his troubles.
Following recent revelations by the State House and Presidency ministry officials we can now classify the election bid as definitively; unfair. Even forgetting the claims leveled by Kizza Besigye, putting out of our minds the fact that the president Yoweri Museveni had shut down social media channels on the day of the elections and ignoring the hindrances placed on the various opposition parties campaigns prior to election day, this confession is enough to make that assertion.
The State House and Presidency ministry officials revealed that the allotted funds for the 2015/16 financial year to end in May 2016 was squandered (for lack of a harsher word) on the election bid of President Yoweri Museveni.
The State House comptroller Lucy Nakyobe who tabled a supplementary budget request of Shs 49.7 billion on behalf of her office informed the parliamentary budget committee on April 1 that her coffers were depleted by the many inland travels of President Museveni, who addressed four campaign rallies daily on average for the campaign period.
As part of the disclosure, she pointed out the money spent to fuel the presidential 18 car motorcade and facilitate the entourage in those four rallies along with the President spending large chunks of money allocated to the State House to fulfill presidential donations he had made across the country.
Other top government officials led by the minister of state for Planning, Davis Bahati, also appeared before the budget committee last week to defend various supplementary budget requests.
The Defense permanent secretary, Rosette Byengoma, informed the committee which was chaired by MP Amos Lugoloobi (Ntengeru North) that her ministry spent more than the originally allocated funds paying UPDF officers and men who worked during campaigns, elections and post-election period. The minister of state for Agriculture, Vincent Sempijja, and the officer in-charge of Planning and Agricultural Development, Sam Semanda, told the committee that their sector was in dire need of Shs 6bn to procure hoes for the people of West Nile.
Other requests for supplementary funds came from ministries of; Local Government (Shs 23bn) and Energy (Shs 24.4bn), the parliamentary commission (Shs 66.6bn) and Police (Shs 56.3bn).
These admissions appear even more criminal in the face of the consideration that ahead of the 2016 general elections, the government had hastily tabled before parliament amendments to the Public Finance Management Act and enforced its passing which included among other things, allowing officials to spend money and seek parliamentary approval later.
While several political and civil society actors described the entire situation as an abuse of public funds with impunity, the minister for the Presidency, Frank Tumwebaze, said there was nothing unusual or illegal in the move by State House to fund the president’s movements and other activities during the elections. He described the outcry as part of “their usual reckless allegations.”
It may also be helpful in putting things in context to understand that the supplementary budget request of more than Shs 1 trillion came barely six months after the national budget of Shs 24 trillion was presented and approved in May 2015. The Ugandan parliament last Friday approved the extra budget worth billions of shillings to president Yoweri Museveni and while this maybe unbelievable to some, maybe we can at least take comfort in the fact that the extra budget did not run into trillions of shillings. Hopefully the people who this should matter to will however refuse to be comforted.