Parliament’s Committee on East African Community Affairs has tasked the finance ministry to prioritise funding for the Ministry of East African Community Affairs.
Committee members say low budget allocation to the ministry has affected its capacity to discharge its key activities on national and regional level.
The committee chairperson, Hon. Noeline Basemera, said the budgeting of the Ministry of East African Community Affairs has been on a downward trend for the last two consecutive financial years, yet the EAC is expanding its frontiers.
“The activities of the ministry are so minimal that it sometimes goes unnoticed. The ministry is poorly vacillated and without integrating in the EAC, our economy cannot grow effectively,” said Basemera.
She observed that the ministry’s budget in Financial Year 2019/2020 was at Shs52.2 billion, it reduced to Shs39 billion in Financial Year 2020/2021 and reduced further in Financial Year 2021/2022 to Shs31.5 billion.
Hon. James Baba (NRM, Koboko County) noted that the Ministry of East African Community Affairs had limited funds to promote Uganda’s EAC integration activities, being limited to only catering for EAC contributions and staff salaries.
“Meetings are called in Arusha, Dar-es-Salaam or Bujumbura, and we have no participants because the money given to other MDAs is used for other factors other than East African Community issues,” Baba said.
He also said that ratification and conclusion on agreements often ended up delayed, because of Uganda’s poor attendance at EAC meetings.
“The work of the ministry has been undermined and is now limping,” he added.
Butebo Woman MP, Hon. Agnes Ameede, said the Continental Free Trade Area is being negotiated but Uganda needed to position itself on the market.
She added that Uganda’s private sector has a big role to play in securing this market, and tasked the EAC ministry to work with the sector to provide opportunities for ordinary Ugandans.
“The finance minister should get into serious conversation with the trade ministry, private sector and the EAC ministry. We are working hard in DR Congo to create peace and open roads but what are we going to benefit from that market?” Ameede asked.
The State Minister for Finance for General Duties, Hon. Henry Musasizi, said the best way forward will be to continue engagements to work out mechanisms to close the gaps of concern, which will then increase visibility of the EAC ministry.
He added that market access to Ugandan goods is entailed in the strategy of the national budget.
“We need your support on our industrialisation agenda which will play into the activities of the ministry,” said Musasizi.
On the ministry’s unfunded priorities amounting to Shs16.8 billion, Musasizi said the national budget for Financial Year 2022/2023 was redistributed to fund priorities identified in the budget strategy and in support of NDPIII.
“These include the Parish Development Model, enhancement of salaries for scientists and activities to facilitate the Final Investment Decision in Oil and Gas. The EAC ministry may rationalise the unfunded priorities with the available budget,” said Musasizi.
While presenting responses to issues raised by the Committee on the EAC ministry’s policy statement, the Permanent Secretary, Edith Mwanje, said a proposal to house all funding on EAC activities under the Ministry, is expected to be achieved in the long run.
She also said that the Minister for East African Community Affairs will seek for a cabinet decision to have the ministry included among MDAS whose budgets are protected from cuts.
Mwanje also said the ministry requires Shs1.2 billion to host the 22nd EAC Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, a trade fair scheduled for 27 April 2022 which is among the unfunded priorities.
“We made a submission to the Ministry of Finance and not yet received any positive response,” she said.
Dokolo North County MP, Hon. Moses Ogwal, said the ministry must become more aggressive in lobbying for resources to effect its key activities, adding that they should not left to be achieved in the long term.
The State Minister for East African Community Affairs, Hon. James Magode Ikuya, said packaging the ministry’s activities to include sensitisation to citizens on EAC programmes will go a long way in improving its visibility.
SOURCE: PARLIAMENT MEDIA