Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | A group of civil society organisations under their umbrella organization, Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) have written to President Yoweri Museveni on the ‘controversial’ giveaway of Shs10bn to Members of Parliament to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The general message in the open letter – dated April 17 – is that the Shs10bn should not be given to MPs but rather be reallocated to fill gaps in the healthcare system in line with fighting the spread of COVID-19 in communities.
On April 02, Parliament during plenary debate requested that MPs be facilitated to help fight COVID-19. Some MPs in the House wondered why Parliament is being sidelined when other officials like Resident District Commissioners and other officials were being facilitated.
The debate took place during the time the ministry of finance presented to the House the approval of Shs1.7trillion loan request to support efforts of fighting coronavirus.
Supporters of the Shs10bn giveaway say MPs are critical when it comes to sensitizing their constituents. But those opposing the move say there are more urgent areas that need to be attended to using this money instead of giving it to the MPs who might use it to mobilise their own political support.
The President and his junior officials are continuing to call upon well-wishers to make contributions of any kind to the government taskforce that is fighting to stop the spread of the pandemic.
The group recommends that the President should not assent to the supplementary appropriation bill 2020, but rather send it back with guidance to have Shs10bn allocated to more tests on Ugandans for COVID-19.
It also calls for reversing of the allocation and if, the money has already gotten to the MPs accounts, it should be recalled.
It also says that Parliament should discuss with the ministry of finance with justifiable reasons if it actually needs this money.
It also says that Parliament should guard jealously the safeguards that are detailed in the Public Finance Management Act against financial abuse by executives.
To achieve this, the group says, MPs should refrain from actions which portrays abuse of the very safeguards whom they are the vanguards.
What Shs10bn can do
According to CSBAG, part of this money can provide the much needed Shs3.6bn to Makerere University to develop quick, low cost COVID-19 test kits. It can also be used to fix funding gaps in the health system – increase bed capacity in health centres, fuel the various cars at national and local levels conducing anti-COVID-19 activities.
It can also be used to procure Personal Protective Equipment for health workers that are at the forefront of combating COVID-19.
The Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake and others have public-ally said the Shs10bn allocation to MPs is uncalled for and will return it Parliament once it hits their bank accounts.
Others have said they will use it to serve their respective communities instead of giving it back to the “corrupt” regime agents.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Uganda stood at 55 as at April 19. Government officials said on Thursday that total recoveries stood at 20.
The President is expected to address the nation later today (April 19) on the progress made so far in the fight against the COVID-19 spread.
He (Museveni) announced the extension of the country’s lock-down for 21 days last Tuesday as his administration continues to monitor new developments regarding the pandemic.