The Parliamentary committee on trade found itself ensnared in a quagmire of confusion and discord as efforts to realign the activities of the trade and tourism ministries spiraled into disarray, casting a dark shadow over the deliberation of the 2024/25 budget estimates.

The much-anticipated meeting convened on Thursday, heralded as a pivotal moment in reshaping budget allocations, quickly descended into chaos as lawmakers were left floundering without a detailed breakdown on how the funds should be reallocated.

 The promised adjustments, ostensibly necessitated by a staggering Shs2.7 trillion cut across all ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) in the 2024/2025 National Budget, failed to materialize amid a storm of confusion and recrimination.

Hon. Martin Mugarra Bahinduka, a junior Trade minister, attempted to shed light on the situation, citing communication from the Ministry of Finance regarding budget cuts to several MDAs, including those in the tourism sector.

However, the lack of clarity only served to exacerbate tensions, leaving lawmakers clamoring for answers and accountability.

“The Ministry of Finance communicated budget cuts to several MDAs and the Tourism MDAs were not spared either. Total cuts across the MDAs amounted to Shs2.776 trillion and resulted from the gaps created by the increase in the debt servicing costs and reduction in budget support from development partners,” Minister Mugarra said, his voice echoing through the hallowed halls of Parliament.

Yet, the gravity of the situation became apparent as Mwine Mpaka, the committee chairperson, implored the entities to furnish the committee with a detailed report on the proposed adjustments.

“We invited them here to give us the costs of their work plans. We want to understand, if it is a workshop, how many people are going to attend the workshop, how much you are giving each person so that when we appear before the Budget Committee, we can ably defend and where we can’t defend, we will concede and that money is reallocated somewhere else,” Mr. Mpaka demanded, his voice tinged with urgency.

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However, the issue at hand was stark: the Ministry of Trade faced a budget cut of approximately Shs62 billion, while the Ministry of Tourism braced for a reduction of Shs16 billion. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) were similarly slated to endure significant cuts, further fueling the tumultuous atmosphere.

In the aftermath of the botched meeting, Mpaka underscored the committee’s commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility, emphasizing the need to safeguard taxpayers’ money from potential abuse. 

“We have realized that sometimes you take it for granted, and when you ask for costs, they can’t defend the costs, so we want to be on the safer side to defend the money before the Budget Committee to ensure we get no leakages,” Mr. Mpaka declared, his words resonating with a sense of determination.

As the dust settled on the parliamentary battleground, the House committee found itself grappling with the Herculean task of implementing the proposed changes and capturing them in its report. The fate of critical budget allocations hung in the balance, with priority areas yet to be delineated amidst the bureaucratic quagmire.

As Uganda’s lawmakers strive to navigate the labyrinthine corridors of budgetary oversight, the specter of uncertainty looms large over the nation’s fiscal landscape.

 With the fate of vital programs and initiatives hanging in the balance, the need for clarity and coherence in budgetary planning has never been more pressing. Only time will tell whether the Parliament committee on trade can untangle the web of confusion and steer the nation towards a brighter, more prosperous future.

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The post Uncertainity Looms as Trade, Tourism Ministries Falter in Budget Realignment  appeared first on Watchdog Uganda.

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