Tempers flared at a meeting called to discuss what some Members of Parliament called a “monstrous” military budget last Friday as politicians hurled insults at one another amid claims that the ruling party was using the Defence as a conduit to tap public funds for its campaigns.
Trouble started after Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga told MPs on the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee that the 201516 Defence budget ballooned from Shs1.1 trillion in the current fiscal year to Shs1.4 trillion and later refused to disclose the budget for the UPDF mission in South Sudan.
Dr Kiyonga, who was presenting a Shs1.4 trillion budget, dismissed suspicions that the Defence docket was being used as a conduit to tap resources for 2016 campaigns as baseless. He said in the election year, UPDF would procure “strategic” equipment and machinery which he refused to disclose for security reasons.
“The budget for Defence cannot be used for elections. It’s just a coincidence that our expenditures under classified have increased because we have critical needs,” he said.
The minister said revealing the total budget for South Sudan mission would jeopardise national security. However, he failed to explain how giving the budget figures without disclosing details would compromise national security.
This angered shadow defence minister Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, who accused NRM legislators led by Mr Simon Mulongo (Bubulo) of “conniving” with the UPDF to “rob” the country under the guise of beefing up national security.
MPs walk out
The Obongi County MP later stormed out of the meeting before Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) followed him, protesting “an abnormal” Defence budget.
The minister had said there will be an incremental figure of Shs16b required to facilitate the UPDF mission in South Sudan. However, the minister did not disclose the whole budget. Dr Kiyonga said the government of South Sudan pays for fuel and that the rest of the expenditures are incurred by Ugandan taxpayers in the spirit of “pan-Africanism”.
The MPs questioned contradicting information from South Sudan officials (Defence minister and House speaker) who reportedly said their government was funding the UPDF mission in its entirety, to which Dr Kiyonga said: “I have said South Sudan is paying for fuel and the rest of the costs are incurred by us. And I have given you the information in a public meeting and in the presence of the press, I cannot speak for South Sudan.”
Details before the committee show that classified expenditure under Defence budget has increased from Shs342.1billion in 201415 financial year to Shs604 billion. The MPs said the money Defence wants as classified can run 10 ministries.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor