Parliament’s Budget Committee has rejected a request for Shs10 billion to construct the National Planning Authority House, urging government to first utilise the former Bwebajja Hotel it acquired to house its entities renting private premises.
While scrutinising the budget allocations to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development for the 2024/2025 financial year, MPs expressed concern that money was allocated to refurbish the Bwebajja facility along Entebbe Road to no effect.
“In the last Parliament, we passed a supplementary budget for redesigning the Bwebajja place; they wanted to remodel it for government entities to relocate there, but it is now over four years, and nothing has been done,” said Hon. Elijah Okupa (FDC, Kasilo County).
Okupa said he was worried that the Bwebajja facility was degenerating and asked the Government to update Parliament on plans for its remodeling.
This was during the meeting between the Budget Committee and the Committee on Finance, Planning, and Economic Development on Wednesday, 17 January 20234 wherein the finance committee chairperson, Hon. Amos Kankunda, presented a report on the National Budget Framework Paper for the finance ministry.
Legislators proposed that before Parliament approves any budget for constructing government offices, there should be scrutiny on the vacant government-owned facilities that could be occupied.
“The National Planning Authority has little office space, and we know it; they are squeezed, but we have vacant offices at the Office of the Prime Minister; we need to look at other government facilities that are not using their space before approving this,” Hon. said Geofrey Ekanya (FDC, Tororo North County).
Ekanya said that not all government organisations seeking to build new offices are in dire need, and claimed that some that have built are making money by renting out part of office space.
He proposed that the Budget Committee scrutinise all the funds allocated for constructing new offices before it could settle the NPA request.
Legislators said this was critical considering the rising public debt burden and the low rate of domestic revenue generation, per the latest finance ministry updates.
According to the ministry’s quarterly debt report of September 2023, the public debt burden had increased from Shs23.67 billion to Shs23.86 billion. The same report indicates that the domestic revenue for the 2024/2025 financial year is projected to increase by Shs285.6 billion, which legislators said calls for focusing on what is of utmost priority.
As a result, the Budget Committee questioned why government prioritised fencing, titling, and surveying privately run industrial parks budgeted at Shs6 billion.
Buikwe County South MP, Hon. Michael Bayigga also asked that before the committee approves Shs 55.96 billion meant for recruitment of 1,278 staff at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), an investigation should be carried out on the alleged illegal recruitment of 600 staff.
“I am aware that they have already recruited about 600 staff in what is known as blind recruitment; it offends equal opportunity considerations; we may want to give URA money, but we must first know those who were recruited and get to know that once we give them an opportunity to recruit 1278 staff we can in future be able to justify our actions,” said Bayigga.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda.