Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament has approved a supplementary budget of 1.087 trillion Shillings to facilitate the COVID-19 response by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Trade and other government entities.
The approval followed a recommendation by the Budget Committee chaired by Amos Lugoloobi, in line with a request which was tabled before parliament on June 16. It also comes just four days to the end of the financial year 2019-2020, whose total budget stood at 40.48 trillion.
The Ministry of Health will use 89 billion Shillings of the total approval to fund requirements for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes procurement of face masks budgeted at 33 billion Shillings as part of the response to control the spread of the pandemic as the country eases the lockdown. Each mask will cost about 2,400 Shillings.
The Ministry will also use 2.3 billion Shillings for transport and allowances for the distribution of face masks, 37 billion Shillings for the procurement of test kits and laboratory consumables, 6 billion Shillings for tents, 4 billion Shillings for support to Local governments for district-based surveillance activities in the 48 border districts and other districts with COVID-19 cases and 7.04 billion Shillings for re-modelling of Intensive care units (ICUs).
Lugoloobi reported that the Ministry had already exhausted the 3 percent statutory limit provided under the Public Finance Management Act. However, this is the second supplementary budget to the Ministry after the initial allocation of 119 billion Shillings which was released after the first outbreak of the disease.
He told Parliament that because of the critical care treatment and high oxygen requirement when treating COVID-19 patients, 145 ICU beds including ventilators, patient monitors, three oxygen plants and oxygen therapy apparatus have been procured and will be installed in the Regional Referral Hospitals.
The Ministry of Health has assessed the Regional Referral Hospitals and found that some have functional ICUs but with limited capacity and 9 do not have ICUs but have identified space that can temporarily be converted into ICUs to manage the COVID-19 patients,” Lugoloobi told Parliament.
He said that to ensure that this equipment is utilized fully even after COVID-19, there is urgent need to remodel the existing space or construct new ICUs in some Regional Referral Hospitals so that they meet the recommended standards. Lugoloobi however said that an additional 14.44 billion Shillings will be required to construct new ICUs in the remaining regional referrals.
The Office of the Prime Minister will also take a share of 45 billion Shillings to address the impact of the rising water levels and floods with support for social services infrastructure.
The Ministry of Finance will have an allocation of 455.18 billion Shillings as a transfer to the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) to support the private sector that has adversely been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic while the Microfinance support centre which will get 50 billion Shillings for provision of affordable credit to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 and ensure continuity of the business activities severely affected.
Meanwhile, 10 billion has been approved for Ministry of Agriculture to enhance households’ capacity for food security including the provision of inputs, 100 billion Shillings for the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) to invest in businesses that will be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, 17.18 billion Shillings for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to support scientists and innovators in COVID-19 interventions and 45.67 billion Shillings will go to Uganda Revenue Authority to facilitate the implementation of digital tax stamps and others.
The Prisons Authority also has an allocation of 10.78 billion Shillings to cater for costs arising out of the increasing numbers of prisoners and the Police Force will get 41.69 billion Shillings to deal with persons who contravene measures that were put in place to control the spread of coronavirus disease. They will also have an additional 223 billion Shillings for domestic arrears and others.
Despite the approval of the main, Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal contested the supplementary allocations saying that it was not possible for the Ministries to absorb the funds in the remaining days of the financial year.
She also demanded a comprehensive post Covid-19 stimulus package instead of piecemeal supplementary requests.
“There is a need for a comprehensive study on how Uganda Development Corporation and Uganda Development Bank can benefit the ordinary SMEs which are agro-based and can transform the lives of the ordinary farmers and the general citizenry. We have however learnt that Uganda Development Bank disburses loans through commercial banks thereby making the rate of interest more expensive and unaffordable to the ordinary Ugandan borrowers,” said Ogwal.
MP Ogwal also noted chronic budgetary and fiscal indiscipline evident in the supplementary requests.