The government agencies and department are not yet ready for the transition from the sector-based budget implementation to the program approach as set out by the National Planning Authority.
The government agencies, departments and ministries, as well as local governments have to transition from the sector approach to the program approach if the next budget is to be implemented to achieve its goals.
The Budget is framed to achieve part of the National Development Plan, meaning that the five-year plan is divided into five parts, with each part to be aligned to a corresponding budget of the year.
According to the NDP III, one of the objectives is to streamline services and avoid duplication of roles and projects, which in the end helps manage the national resources at hand.
The government, therefore, has to align the budget to the NDP III, which has quite several new aspects from the previous NDPs, especially regarding the development approaches.
The NPA, therefore, set a target for MDAs to align their operations to be able to adopt the new systems, and the target was 70% transition.
However, with less than a month to the implementation of the new budget, the transition is estimated at 61%. Julius Mukunda, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group, CSBAG, says that even the 70% target was not adequate.
He was speaking at a pre-budget conference organized by civil society organizations.
Mukunda attributed this to limited capacity where some resources are required, but also cites the disruption of government programs by the Covid- 19, as well as resistance by some government officials to change.
The local governments have been the slowest at transitioning. Gerald Namoma, Senior Officer, Tax Policy Department at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, says government planning was largely disrupted especially due to the change in needs of the communities due to Covid 19.
He says that much as the government has to implement the NDP III which was designed before the outbreak, consideration also has to be given to the new socioeconomic challenges.
Namoma cites the need for people to revive their businesses after a sharp downturn, saying this affects how the government must run its tax regime, without hurting businesses.
But Moses Mushiime, a program officer at the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, says the local governments have been crippled by a continued decline in financing from the central government.
Despite the increasing size of the administrative structure for the country, including the growing numbers of districts, municipalities and towns, their share of the national budget has declined steadily.
Mushiime says that unfortunately, most of the resources from the central government to the local governments are going to salaries and operational costs, and not development programs.
Mukunda wondered why the government’s tax policies are discriminatory, in some instances targeting certain individuals, and not sectors, which he says is not only unfair but also stifles domestic revenue mobilization.
He cites the digital stamps, the rental tax and the e-receipting systems among others as the measures being implemented effectively in Kampala and not in the other cities.
Namoma says they are focusing on closing gaps that will ensure leakages and tax avoidance by some would-be taxpayers, are closed so that the tax burden is gradually reduced.