Cabinet, MPs Disagree Over UGX 39B for Health Workers

2222 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
While parliament pushes for the reallocation of 39.2 billion shillings to the health sector, cabinet is uncomfortable saying this could cripple critical sectors.

Cabinet and the Parliamentary Budget Committee have failed to agree on specific figures fronted for the 2012/2013 budget.
The points of contention are in the recruitment of staff in the health sector. While parliament was pushing for the reallocation of 39.2 billion shillings to the health sector, the cabinet was uncomfortable saying this could cripple critical sectors.

As debate ensued in parliament on Thursday, legislators across the political divide were in agreement that the health sector is rotting and can be revived by recruiting more health workers and enhancing their salaries.

But the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi noted that the resource envelop was limited and would not accommodate the demands of parliament. Mbabazi says the proposal in line with the government plans but not at the expense of crippling other sectors.

Mbabazi explained to the legislators how getting 39.2 billion shillings would affect other sectors. He said part of the money is to cater for travel, fuel and maintenance at the Ministry of Defense, adding that diverting it to the Ministry of Health could compromise security.

The Electoral Commission’s budget has also been cut with Mbabazi saying the budget cut will be an illegality. Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) was also cut by three billion shillings and this could affect their duties given the upcoming national census. From the Ministry of Education, Parliament is proposing to cut one billion shillings. These cuts add up to 24 billion of the 39.2 billion shillings proposed for reallocation to health sector.

The executive proposes that they look elsewhere for these funds. The PM said they are ready to revisit all sectors without crippling the crucial ones.

Dr. Sam Lyomoki, chairperson health committee challenged Mbabazi to explain the illegality of cutting the budget for Electoral Commission. After consultation with legal experts, the committee observed it was not illegal because parliament has the mandate to check the budget of the Commission and other statutory bodies.

Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah guided the discussion that it would not be advisable to change the budget of statutory organs like Electoral Commission and UBOS. Oulanyah observed that the practice of Public Finance does not allow statutory expenditure to be changed in the manner parliament had done. He insisted that parliament does not vote on matters of statutory expenditure.

Tim Lwanga, the chairperson Budget Committee suggested that government be given time to look for the money. Fred Omach, the Finance state minister was in agreement saying they have to look for 39.2 billion shillings.

Earlier, Kyaddondo East MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda demanded to know what has stopped the government from establishing the salary commission. He noted that cutting State House budget would go a long way in providing the needed funds for the health sector. He said that it is time the bloated list of presidential advisers is cut down to manageable numbers. State House will spend 11 billion shillings on trips alone.

The health committee had in a report to Parliament recommended the addition of 260 billion shillings in the health sector. The committee observed that to retain the health workers by enhancing their salaries by 50 % would require 121billion shillings.

To recruit an additional 6,900 health workers countrywide would require 61 billion shillings. It was also observed that to motivate health workers with duty allowances would require another 78 billion shillings.

Kinkizi East MP Chris Baryomunsi noted that the health sector is in a mess urging government to even bring a supplementary budget.

Florence Mutyabule, Namutumba MP, threatened to mobilize against supporting any supplementary budget if the staffing of health workers and their salaries are not considered. The same plea was re-echoed by her Gulu district counterpart Betty Achan.