The UPDF’s continued stay in South Sudan will cost Ugandan taxpayers an extra Shs 16.2bn next financial year, according to the defence budget.
But the increment in spending was vehemently challenged by parliament’s Defense and Internal Affairs committee on Thursday. Besides arguing that Shs 16.2bn was too huge an additional expense, MPs wanted to know what the original cost was.
They asked minister Crispus Kiyonga to produce details of the previous expenditure since the army entered South Sudan in December 2013. The UPDF rushed in to protect the government of President Salva Kiir against forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar.
Kiyonga was appearing before the committee to defend his ministry’s Shs 1.4 trillion budget for the fiscal year 201516. The minister refused to disclose the expenditure details, saying this would “jeopardize the mission”.
His answer simply stirred more hostility from MPs such as Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala, DP), Hassan Kaps Fungaroo (Obongi, FDC), and Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), who argued that Ugandans needed to know since they are the ones picking the bill.
“In any democracy, the public is entitled to know how their money is being spent so, we can’t go on like this without getting the details of the expenditure,” Kivumbi said. “We require a crystal clear position on who is footing the bill [South Sudan or Uganda].”
Ssekikubo pointed out that while Kiyonga wanted more money, South Sudan had said they were funding Ugandan troops there.
“But it’s also unfortunate that you are concealing information from Parliament I would like to know the amount you have been spending which you want to increase,” Ssekikubo said.
Kiyonga did not budge.
“If I go into all those details, it would jeopardize the mission and it would be very dangerous to those soldiers in South Sudan because the enemy shall have got some leads,” he said.
He maintained that it was Uganda funding the operations, save for the fuel component, which South Sudan shoulders.
An angry Fungaroo suggested that the defence budget be blocked until “they have brought figures” and facts.
However, it emerged that in August last year, government injected Shs 25bn into the war, buying items such as food, fuel, lubricants and clothing.
EXTRA 40 BILLION
Apart from the controversial Shs 16.2bn increment for South Sudan operations, defence also needs an extra Shs 40bn to cater for the inland soldiers’ food (Shs 18.3bn), fuel-land forces (Shs 2bn), fuel-air force (Shs 6bn), EASF (Shs 6.2bn), mutual defence pact (Shs 3.2bn), EAC games (Shs 2bn), burial (Shs 0.25bn), treatment abroad (Shs 0.250bn), hospital bills (Shs 1bn), and mandatory travels abroad (Shs 0.700bn).
Source : The Observer