Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1122 EAT on Tuesday 31st May 2022.
Budaka district councillors have refused to approve the FY 2022/23 Shs 30 billion budget, citing several anomalies which they claim they cannot proceed to approve.
The budget which the council was meant to approve has the health sector taking Shs 4.8 billion, education Shs 15.9 billion, production Shs 1.2 billion, natural resources Shs 155 million, and roads Shs 700 million.
The irritated councillors caused a stampede today morning at the district headquarters when they refused to enter the council chambers and decided to deliberate from under a Muvule tree demanding an explanation for some of the key issues noted in the budget.
The councillors allege that some of the items in the budget were smuggled to fulfill the interests of the chairperson. Humprey Ikendeza, the councillor representing people with disabilities (PWDs) said that the councillors’ main concern was that the budget documents were delivered to them late prior to the meeting while others got just it this morning, and they have not internalized properly the document.
He said: “It clearly stipulated that such council documents are supposed to be delivered seven working days before the session to enable them to internalize them but for this case, it was the contrary – only to be delivered a day before council while others got it in the morning, which was just intended to undermine councillors,” Ikendezia said.
The councillors also raised concern that all the recommendations that were made in various committees were not reflected in the final budget.
“[Should] we think that our efforts to discuss and come up with committee recommendations was a waste of time because these were the pertinent issues that concern our people who gave us the mandate, but to our surprise, they are nowhere in the budget!” Ikendeza fumed, adding, “We are totally committed to approving the budget but on condition that these concerns noted are addressed. This kind of behaviour to change what was agreed in committee was totally outrageous and uncalled for.”
The councillors observed that the continued budgeting allocation for funds towards the construction of the administration block without phases is a project for some people to siphon taxpayers’ funds.
The councillors vowed not to allocate funds to this project and yet councillors are not fully furnished with clear information because every time when councillors demand to know the projected total amount it remains unclear.”
Faith Tino, a female councillor representing PWDs said that people should understand their concerns not to think that they were voted into those offices purposely to cause fights and conflicts at the district.
“We are fighting for the common person who gave us the mandate because if the committee recommendations were made and are not reflected in the budget, then the communities will instead turn their guns on us, thinking the five years was a waste of time,” Tino said.
The 30-40 councillors staged a peaceful protest and spent almost the whole day seated under the Muvule tree hoping that the LC V, Emmanuel Pajje or the chief accounting officer (CAO) Elly P’wang would possibly meet them and address their grievances but none surfaced.
Koluwo Tasumba, a female councillor representing Kakoli sub-county said that the executive and the technical staff should work together with the councillors than creating a rift: “These councillors have concerns but it is unfortunate and regrettable that none of the concerned officers has bothered to listen to them, but instead they are trying to intimidate us that we shall not be paid our emoluments for the whole financial year. This is not the way to go. We have been abandoned here under this tree and we are like total orphans. The district chairperson should think twice because we need each other. We are all servants of the people. It’s like a family, when children quarrel, the parent has to come out and listen to them but in this case, the chairperson has done the contrary.”
Emmanuel Sodyo, the councillor representing Kadimukoli sub-county said the concern of the councillors is not to refuse to approve the budget, but development projects should be spread to other sub-counties because some sub-counties like Katira, Kameruka, Mugiti, Kakoli, and Iki-Iki will not benefit from the budget.
“This is a general concern from councillors that each and every sub-county should be catered for in this budget, this district is moving in the wrong direction,” he said.
Sophie Kyomugisha, councillor representing Budaka town council said that councillors have come together for a common cause not to fight the chairperson, but certain issues must be addressed.
We need value for money because cases of shoddy work and poor road network is a common practice here in Budaka, we shall request the department of production to budget for banana suckers and then we plant in these poor roads,” she said.
Anthony Kateu, the councillor representing Iki-Iki observed that in the previous FY 2021/22, the council appropriated Shs 400 million just to roof the administration block.
“We have taken the trouble to demand how many phases this administrative block will take us to complete but none of them is committing but only continue budgeting with no clear accountability. Even if we use total stupidity, this council can’t just approve this money like that!” Kateu said.
Budaka LC V chairman Pajje insists that budgeting is a process, in which the councillors and other stakeholders participated. He explained that districts get circular -then the lower governments come up with a budget conference.
“The draft budget was presented to council and they are all aware of the procedure which is clear that the draft budget goes back to sector committee for scrutinizing, which was done, whatever was captured remained the same and there was no alteration as councillors may think,” Pajje said.
He explained that the people who think this council will solve their problems which is not true.
“There are people who are fronting their personal interests than people’s interests. This kind of method is ironic” Pajje said “I could not be so stupid to meet councillors who failed to understand their own budget document. I don’t need to interpret for them issues they themselves participated in. I am not of that person.”