IS THE NATIONAL BUDGET BEING MANIPULATED FOR REGIME ENTRENCHMENT?
Is the national budget being manipulated for regime entrenchment?
Every year preceding the general elections in Uganda, there is always a noticeable spike inflow of funds generally to all sectors. Tracing back from FY2005/06, there was a peak in budget allocation close to UGX 4 trillion ($1,133,062,800) in the year before the 2006 elections. There was another noticeable peak at UGX 6.5 trillion ($1,841,227) in financing in FY 2009/10 – the year before the 2011 elections. In 2014 all projections had put the national budget envelope at UGX 18.08 trillion ($5,121,443,856) only for the Ministry of Finance to announce to Parliament that the value of the national budget was to be UGX 23.9 trillion ($6,770,050,230). That was FY 2014/15 a year before the 2016 general elections.
In the lead-up to 2021 general elections, government of Uganda like other countries was faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and most of the interventions were focused on combating the spread of the virus. From the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, government of Uganda has provided a total of UGX 4,034.11 billion ($1,142,693.83) to finance COVID-19 related activities. Out of this, UGX 314 billion ($88,945,430.80) (7.8%) was provided in FY 2019/20, UGX 2,787.23 billion ($789,462.51) (69.1%) was for FY 2020-21 and UGX 932.58 billion ($264,167,927) (23.1%) has been provided in the FY 2021-22.
Source: SecretsKnown analysis of Covid-19 expenditure
The graph above shows that the financial year 2020/2021 leading up to the elections was allotted UGX 2787.23 ($789,462) billion towards the Covid-19 fight. This was 69% more than what was allocated to the financial years of 2019/2020 and 2021/2022 combined. The reason as to why government chose to allocate more funds in a financial year where election campaigns and polling were conducted as compared to other financial years does raise eyebrows and is suspect.
Of the UGX 2,787.23 billion ($789,462) allocated and expended on Covid-19 in the financial year 2020/2021, a big portion of the money was skewed to ‘strategic’ programmes and interventions that were administered around election time. For instance, the Youth fund was allocated UGX 130billion ($36,770,136), Emyooga programme got UGX 260billion ($73,540,272), funding for women entrepreneurs got UGX 29.51billion ($8,230,853), support to artists was given UGX 1.2billion ($339,416), support to SACCOs was allocated UGX 77.72billion ($21,982,884), and Uganda Development Bank re-capitalization was allocated UGX 558.18billion ($157,879,650).
The report on Parliamentary Taskforce on National Covid-19 response reveals that the interventions such as UDB re-capitalization, support to SACCOs through Microfinance Support Centre, Emyooga and the Youth Funds, Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), and provision of inputs and support for the e-Voucher systems were well-intentioned to boost the private sector, protect economic resilience, and provide some certainty for business. However, they were affected by the lack of a transparent mechanism to ensure that the resources trickle down to the intended beneficiaries. Consequently, many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Women, and Youths have continued to suffer from the economic impacts of COVID-19 unabated.
Due to lack of clear transparency on how the funds were expended to the intended beneficiaries as discovered by the Parliamentary Taskforce, SecretsKnown does not rule out the possibility that some of the funds allocated for the financial year 2020/2021 could have ended up into financing party primaries and election campaigns of candidates for the ruling government.
That said, SecretsKnown would like to reiterate Parliament’s position of demanding government of Uganda to provide full accountability of the Covid-19 funds. As of now, there are more questions than answers and we know that Covid-19 money was abused through procurements with the likelihood of financing partisan politics. The unanswered question is who are those who abused Covid-19 money? All we know are the culpable institutions.