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Makerere Visitation Committee funding questioned in parliament

The main building at Makerere.

Parliament questions State House over Makerere Visitation Committee funding

Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Budget Committee have condemned a move to fund the Makerere University Visitation Committee from the State House budget.

The expenditure by the visitation committee was on Wednesday the center of a heated debate between MPs and the State House officials led by Minister for the presidency Esther Mbayo Mbulakubuza and Comptroller Lucy Nakyobe.

Mbayo led a team before the budget committee to justify a supplementary budget request of over Shs23bn, key among the issues included in the supplementary expenditure is Shs2.4bn to fund the activities of the visitation committee.

The committee has already spent Shs2.434 billion in allowances and travel abroad.  Shs1.811 billion has been spent on allowances and Shs 623 million on internal travel.

The nine-man Visitation Committee was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni in November last year to inquire into the affairs of Makerere University. This followed closure of the institution after a sit-down strike by the university’s academic staff over salary arrears amounting to Shs 28bn.

The University has since reopened but the committee was given six months to complete its work.

Opposition MPs on the budget committee have however objected to the approval of funds accruing to State House for purposes of funding the visitation committee.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal spiritedly argued against this move noting that this act was unprecedented and would open up a flood gate of emergency funding requests from the president.

“You cannot just wake up in the morning and say that because this one president has commissioned, State House must pay,” Ogwal remarked.

She reasoned that the relevant sector should shoulder the expenditure through a transparent budgeting process that MPs can scrutinize effectively.

“We should be told how many commissions have been paid from the State House budget so that we know there is a reference point.  Chairman, this is not justifiable, if the work of this commission is very important and urgent, it should be put in the budget and we scrutinize it,’ said Ogwal

Mbayo’s justification for the expenditure was that the matter of constant wrangles and strikes at the university was an urgent issue that needed immediate attention and yet several sectors including the education ministry has been subjected to budget cuts.

“We had experienced a budget cut across all the ministries and the closure of Makerere was a matter of national concern since it impacted on health after medical interns laid down tools in solidarity of colleagues who were not studying. The inquiry was necessary,” said Mbayo

The MP for Butambala Muwanga Kivumbi was suspicious of the expenditure amount and asked the minister to clarify on what items the money was meant for. to the committee that is yet to present its investigation report.

“If you are to spend Shs2.4bn in six months this means that every month this committee consumes Shs400m…. This is outrageously expensive,” Muwanga exclaimed.

The budget committee has asked the minister to furnish it with a detailed breakdown of the visitation committee expenditure before the end of the day.

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