Sub Counties in FY 2016/17 budget have have gained a 400% budget increment from an average UGX 60M to around UGX 300M. It is understood that more development work is now being done at Sub County level with relevant control by the District. However key stakeholders at Sub County Level are not farmiliar with the details of this budget especially its prioritized actions. This is thanks to the fact the many Sub Counties did not hold the Budget Conferences as required by the Public Finance Management Act 2015 and the Guidelines issued by the Finance Minister under the Act. In a mini-survey conduct by TAC in the sidelines of the on going training of community structures; all 4 sampled Sub Counties of Serere District namely Atiira, Kadungulu, Pingire and Kateta as well as Katine and Arapai Sub Counties of Soroti District were consistent with the report that no budget conferences were held in the preparation of 2016/17 Budgets.
This trend is a big issue for many reasons: First it is in total disregard of the law and policy guidelines which is in error. Secondly; skipping this conference is a blatant act of disenfranchising the public from the only available space they can use to influence. Thirdly; local democracy is rendered inpossible since lower local councils are not facilitated with the relevant information for monitoring and supervision of service delivery. Forthly; the astronomical increase in budget is shrouded in the secrecy and exposed to real potential of abuse due to lack of budget transparency. Fifthly; someone is simply not doing their job of mobilizing and informing the public of governance processes in the Sub County.
The reasons for the non-holding of this crucial event are varied: Time did not allow, locals and councillors expect allowances to participate in the conference, it is simple to just rely on the district level budget conference and locals confuse the event with other events such as 'religious conferences'. However impressive the reasons for the non compliance; what is clear is that the deliberate omision to hold this conference is illegal and contradictory of policy and practice. The mini survey also discovered that the technical teams in the different Sub Counties were complicit in withholding information about the mandatory requirement to hold the conference from the political class.
TAC has purposed to correct this state of affairs in order to allay the above listed issues. Training is currently ongoing for the locals to gain insight on how to participate in the Sub County Budget Conferences and what value that adds to their Schools, Health Facilities, Roads and other services. The experience has been an eye opener and SMCs, HUMCs, Local Councilors and Opinion leaders are vowing to participate in the new Budgeting Cycle.