We Can’t Stand Your Poor Planning: MPs Put Defence Ministry’s Supplementary Request In Hanging Mode

We Can’t Stand Your Poor Planning: MPs Put Defence Ministry’s Supplementary Request In Hanging Mode

By Spy Uganda

The Shs339.8 billion supplementary request by the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs to pay wages is hanging in balance following dissenting voices from Members of Parliament.

The ministry is seeking an additional Shs432.3 billion in this financial year, out of which shs339.8 billion is to address salary shortfalls for the newly recruited and integrated Local Defence Personnel (LDPs). Shs90.1 billion is to enhance salaries of top-ranking UPDF officers, while Shs2.3 billion is to enhance salaries for army scientists.

MPs on the Committee of Defence and Internal Affairs specifically voted to stay the approval of the Shs339.8 billion request on wage bill shortfalls saying it defeats the purpose of supplementary budgets.

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“A supplementary request should be an unavoidable expenditure that cannot be extended to the new financial year. The issue of salaries is something you foresaw and should have been budgeted in this current financial year,” Hon. Godfrey Wakooli (NRM, Butiru County) said.

This was during a meeting with ministry officials led by the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Hon. Vincent Ssempijja on Thursday, 30 March 2023.

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Section 25(6) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 requires the supplementary expenditure to be unabsorbable, unavoidable and unforeseeable.

Bukooli Island County Member of Parliament, Hon. Peter Okeyoh said it is illogical for the ministry to recruit personnel without ascertaining the source of their wages.

“Why should the ministry not prioritise salaries which is a statutory requirement? I wonder how they would recruit over 25,000 personnel without a wage bill. This is such a unique supplementary that should be stayed until a proper explanation is provided,” Okeyoh said.

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According to the ministry, part of the Shs339.8 billion request is to pay salaries for 11,442 LDPs recruited and another 25,318 integrated LDPs in Financial Year 2021/2022.

It is also to cater for salary arrears for 455 health workers recruited in Financial Year 2021/2022, while Shs64 billion is required to cater for recurring wage shortfalls in the last two financial years.

Isingiro West County Member of Parliament, Hon. Rauben Arinaitwe concurred with his fellow legislators that the request should be stayed until a satisfactory explanation is availed.

Minister Ssempijja said their frustration emanates from Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development that has continuously disrespected parliamentary recommendations to avail funds for wage bills, leaving them with no option but to bring a supplementary budget.

“Every year, there is a gap on wages carried forward. If you make a proposal to cater for wages, why doesn’t the Finance Ministry put in the next budget? When they don’t consider it then we are forced to bring a supplementary,” Ssempijja said to the dissatisfaction of the committee.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Rosette Byengoma said the ministry has frontloaded its wage budget to ensure that army personnel get their salaries with hope that supplementary will be approved.

“We have been prioritising wages but the Finance Ministry keeps giving us less than we need. We have used up our wages and do not even have money to pay salaries for our soldiers from March to June,” Byengoma said.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro called for a joint meeting with the Minister of Finance to iron out the anomalies.

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