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A Costly President

Museveni’s expenses raise eyebrows

– 92.6bn- fundraisings

– 27.6bn- district groups

– 10.7bn- foreign visits

– 5.3bn- helicopter

– 800m- new car

The 201415 ministerial policy statement (MPS) for the presidency offers interesting glimpses into the spending habits of State House and the office of the President.

If Parliament approves the budgetary estimates, the Offices under the president will have close to Shs 1 trillion to spend.

An independent analysis of the ministerial policy statement (MPS) shows that all the six departments directly under the president namely Office of the President, Internal Security Organization (ISO), State House, Uganda Aids Commission, directorate of Ethics and Integrity and External Security Organization (ESO) were allocated more than Shs 960.9bn.

This is about 6.6 per cent of the Shs 15.05 trillion national budget, and more than double the amount allocated to the agricultural sector. Agriculture was allocated Shs 473.6bn (3.3 per cent). The agriculture sector, according to the 201415 budget speech, employs about 70 per cent of Uganda’s labour force, and contributes about 21 percent to the GDP.

“In the past two [NRM caucus] Kyankwanzi retreats, government agreed to allocate seven per cent of the budget to the agricultural sector… It is totally underserved it needs a major thrust,” Mathias Kasamba, the chairman of Parliament’s committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, said in an interview on Tuesday.

President’s expenditure:

According to the policy statement, the president is expected to spend Shs 92.6bn to attend 70 planned community functions (any informal functions like fundraisings not listed as state functions) in a year under the community outreach and welfare programme. This also includes payment of school fees to an unspecified number of students, and support to the needy.

Museveni is also expected to spend at least Shs 27.6bn to host 60 delegations from districts under a vote for mass mobilization towards poverty reduction, peace and development. The president will spend another Shs 5.9bn to attend six international trade meetings and to officiate at both local and international trade-related functions.

This is in addition to Shs 10.7bn allocated to his foreign visits to 20 countries, hosting 15 heads of state and attending 18 regional and international meetings. The budget request also carries a monthly request of Shs 53m to cover presidential burial expenses. The burial expenses are spread in six different votes which give the president a consolidated monthly sum of Shs 35.7m to spend while his Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi has a monthly sum of Shs 17.3m.

State House will also spend Shs 13.05bn on procuring a specialized presidential vehicle at Shs 800m and Shs 5.2bn on buying 32 support vehicles. In 2012, President Museveni unveiled two new limousine vehicles, whose cost press reports put variously at between Shs 6bn and Shs 10bn.

At least Shs 5.3bn will be deposited on a new presidential helicopter. The president will spend another Shs 1.4bn on a poverty alleviation project which includes support to one scientific innovator to enhance rural transformation and promotion of value addition.

Debts:

Despite a Shs 205.2bn budgetary allocation last financial year, State House saddles a Shs 435m debt in utility bills. In the budget request for this current financial year, at least Shs 150m will cover electricity bills while National Water and Sewerage corporation will be paid Shs 290m.

“If they [State House] were allocated money for recurrent expenditure, how did they accumulate that debt?” Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga said on July 15.

“Unless they want to tell us that State House is too undisciplined that it can’t manage its utility bills… it could be part of their hidden expenditures,” he adds.

Expensive president?

In the policy statement, Minister Tumwebaze notes that with Shs 249.8bn, State House’s wage ceiling increased by Shs 3.58bn to cater for the remuneration of the presidential jet and helicopter crews, while the non-wage ceiling increased by Shs 38.7bn to cater for procurement of classified equipment and school fees for sponsored students.

The ceiling for the development budget increased by Shs 5.3bn to cater for a deposit on the procurement of a presidential helicopter. The requests, according to the stand-in shadow minister for the Presidency and Anti-Corruption Betty Nambooze (MP Mukono municipality), make Museveni Uganda’s most expensive president in post-independence history.

“We are facing hard times as a country where one would expect a cut in costs but we are having an exaggerated and overemphasized presidency at the expense of all sectors,” Nambooze said on Monday.

She argued that if Museveni’s 762 handlers were reduced by half, it would provide funds enough to recruit at least four doctors for each of the 112 districts. The handlers take up to Shs 234.3bn annually (93.7 percent) in salaries of the State House’s total allocation of Shs 249.84bn. This translates into a monthly purse of Shs 19.5bn, a figure enough to pay salaries for 16,271 lower-level doctors each at a monthly pay of Shs 1.2m.

The same budget can remunerate at least 12,204 specialist doctors each at a monthly pay of Shs 1.6m and 9,763 consultant doctors each at a monthly pay of Shs 2m according to the new salary structures.

“In the recent US government shutdown, President Obama reduced his staff at the White House to 129, from 438 and his vice Joe Biden’s staff was cut from 24 to 12,” Nambooze notes.

“Considering the size of the USA and that of Uganda, Museveni’s 762 State House staff is outrageous,” she said.

Starved:

In an interview on Tuesday, Ofwono Opondo, the government spokesman, said the presidential budget was justified, given the demands of the presidency.

“Just today [July 15], the president has four engagements in four separate districts excluding his own State House at the very minimum, he needs about 38 staff at each of the engagements,” Opondo said.

Opondo said people had to understand that not all the staff are deployed at Entebbe. Some are deployed at key strategic installations such as State Lodges spread across the country, Parliament and sensitive cultural institutions.

“Don’t think that all the people you see around the Kabaka [Ronald Muwenda Mutebi] are his staff or at Parliament here are parliamentary staff, some of them were deployed by State House,” Opondo said.

“The presidency involves many facets that is why it requires a significant number of staff, that’s why it asks for supplementary budgets because the allocations are not enough.It is starved of resources,” he added.

Security:

The office of the president, under vote 1 was allocated Shs 83.4bn with security Internal Security Organization (ISO) and Co-ordination of Security Services taking the lion’s share of Shs 35.7bn. It is under this vote that salaries and other facilitation for presidential aisors, resident district commissioners (RDCs) and their deputies are catered for, as well as departments like the Uganda Media Centre and the presidential awards chancery.

ISO’s budget jumped from Shs 27.1bn last financial year to Shs 31.8bn while that of coordination of security services remained at Shs 3.9bn, the same as last year. But surprisingly by the end of the financial year, expenditure stood at more than Shs 5.1bn, almost double the allocation. The policy statement tags this increase in expenditure to the non-wage classified operations of the office that was last held by exiled Gen David Sejusa.

For support services at the ministry of the Presidency, the budget was revised upwards to Shs 16.3bn, from last year’s Shs 14.1bn. Frank Tumwebaze (minister for the Presidency) and Vincent Nyanzi (state minister in the Office of the Vice President) are the two ministers in this ministry.

Out of the Shs 16.3bn, the two ministers get Shs 18.7m in allowances for mobile phones, Shs 379.5m in per diem and Shs 37.4m in responsibility allowances. Allowances for presidential aisors were put at Shs 3.9m a month but they also get Shs 121m from a vote known as per diem for political and senior leaders in the ministry and Shs 165.6m listed as fuel allowance for political leaders.

Shs 80m will be spent on air tickets and Shs 1.2bn for construction of the resident district commissioners’ offices in Butambala and Bundibugyo districts. The Uganda Media Centre and RDCs were allocated Shs 11.5bn under the vote for mobilization, media and awards.

Source : The Observer

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