AUDITOR GENERAL 2019-2020 REPORT, COVID-19 AND GOVERNMENT UNDER-PERFORMANCES
By Arans Tabaruka
It’s evident that the Financial year 2019/2020 was the most disrupted year of implementation of the national development plan due the Covid-19 Pandemic in regard to timelines of the national budget.
A review undertaken by National Planning Authority to assess the performance of National Development Plan II confirmed this from the assessment that targeted 5 out of 14 (36%) assessed performance indicators achieved by the end of the planning period.
The Auditor General’s report confirmed this too in the 2019-2020 Audit Report saying the failure to achieve a number of planned targets was attributed to; slow implementation of core projects, limited prioritization and inadequate sequencing of interventions, land related constraints, limited access to and high cost of capital and low levels of revenue to GDP to finance infrastructure and social services among others.
With regard to implementation of the 2019/2020 budget, government approved a UGX.40.4tn budget but later revised it to UGX.42.7tn. The National Planning Authority, rates this budget at 59.7% (Unsatisfactory) compliant to the National Development Plan II.
This decline in performance from the level of compliance of the 2018/2019 budget was rated 60% (Moderately satisfactory), the Government of Uganda released UGX.37.04tn (86.7%) out of which, UGX.35.06tn (94.7%) was spent leaving unspent balance of UGX.1.98tn. The under absorption is largely attributed to COVID -19 restrictions that saw a number of entities fail to implement quarter 4 activities and entities operating at 30% capacity.
Out of the sampled 313 entities for purposes of assessing the implementation of planned outputs, out of the 4,906 outputs worth UGX.10.3tn sampled for review, 3,369 outputs (68.7%) worth UGX.5.2tn were fully quantified, 625 outputs (12.7%) worth 2.9tn were partially quantified while 912 outputs (18.6%) worth UGX.2.2tn were not quantified at all.
Out of a total of 3,369 quantified out-puts worth UGX.5.2tn assessed, 1,766 (52.4%) output worth UGX.1.8tn were fully implemented, 1,240 outputs (36.8%) worth UGX.3.3tn were partially implemented, while 363 (10.8%) out-puts worth UGX.139bn were not implemented at all.
COVID-19 pandemic coupled with government’s imposed restrictions to combat the spread of the disease are to blame, for it greatly reduced the economic activity in the country.
This impacted the cash flow collections by URA and necessitated alternative sources of financing the government budget.
Uganda Shillings 27.23bn was availed from the contingency funds to support the Ministry of Health (UGX.25bn), Office of the Prime Minister (UGX.2bn), and Embassy of Beijing to support Ugandan students (UGX.233m)
Out of the UGX.4.3tn budget support, the Parliament of Uganda approved a supplementary budget of UGX.284bn for multi-sectoral interventions, to enable the Government to respond to and manage the Covid-19 pandemic and the balance remained in the Consolidated Fund to support the budget. The funds were disbursed by the Treasury to 134 districts and 11 MDAs for the purpose during the financial year 2019/2020.
This report is in respect of the UGX.311bn comprising of UGX.284bn disbursed to the MDAs and districts, UGX.27bn released from the contingency Fund and the in-kind donations received by the various entities.
The Auditor-General John Muwanga says government must address the bottlenecks that hinder project implementation of NDP II and consider rolling over the critical unimplemented activities under NDP II to NDP III for implementation.
Five months into the NDP III implementation, critical activities should have been planned and undertaken before the NDP III became effective, the National Planning Authority is still developing action plans, no Government sector had an approved Sector Development Plan, and all the MDALGs were still developing their strategic plans for the period 2020-2025.
This points to a risk that delays will subsequently affect timelines of implementation of the NDP III and the overall achievement hence the need to develop comprehensive strategies of mitigating the effects of these delays.
Underfunding of the Contingencies fund – UGX.101.4Bn
Section 26(i) of the PFMA 2015 provides for replenishment of Contingencies’ funds with an amount equivalent to 0.5% of the appropriated annual budget of the Government of the previous financial year.
The FY2018/2019 approved budget was UGX. 32,702.8bn, which would translate into the funding of UGX.163.51bn in the year under review. Parliament only appropriated UGX.62.07bn (38%) to the Contingencies fund, causing a deficit of UGX.101.4bn. It’s well understood that underfunding of the contingencies fund distorts implementation of the approved budget as evidenced by requests and approvals of supplementary funding relating to natural disasters and emergencies.
Government need to secure and explore ways of ring-fencing the funds meant for the contingencies Fund.
Key areas of scrutiny, highlight the supplementary funding totaling UGX.2.24tn granted by the Minister of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development.
The exact source of the funding for the supplementary expenditure is not established before approval is granted and as a result raises questions leading to supplementary expenditure financed by internal budget cuts from various votes, thus affecting the implementation of activities by the affected votes.
Further, although the budget was increased to UGX.42.74tn, it was only funded to a tune of UGX.37tn, which was even lower than the earlier approved budget of UGX.40.5tn. This casts doubt as to the necessity of the supplementary.
It’s against such practice that the Auditor General points out that the Minister should always present to Parliament for approval a detailed schedule of supplementary revenue to match the supplementary expenditure for purposes of extra funding required.