The Local Government regional budget consultations across the country (18th September to 6th October,2023) followed the National Budget Conference held on 14th September 2023 to commence the budget preparation process for FY 2024/25 in line Section 13 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act,2015 (as amended).
At these engagements in Arua, Gulu, Lira, Mbale, Hoima, Fort Portal, Mbarara, Masaka, Jinja and Ridar Hotel, Seeta, the Finance Minister Matia Kasaija in his statement delivered on his behalf by Ministers of State and the top technical staff communicated the Government’s budget strategy and priorities for FY 2024/25 as well as the indicative planning figures and grant programme guidelines to facilitate the preparation of the budget for FY 2024/25.
It was also a platform for discussing investment priorities to facilitate the development growth strategies and budget implementation challenges affecting service delivery among other issues.
The Finance Minister said the Budget for FY 2024/25 seeks to accelerate economic growth by at least 6.5% and 7% over the medium term from a raw-materials-based to a manufacturing and knowledge –based economy; as well as improving the ease of doing business in Uganda and making it competitive.
The Minister highlighted the budget priorities for next financial year and these include: Agricultural production and value addition, Climate Change and management of food security, Implementation of the Parish Development Model, Consolidating infrastructure development, Security and Governance as well as Human Capital Development among others.
“I request you to strengthen your revenue administration and collection enhancement measures through automation of processes and having in place the right policies, by-laws and ordinances that promote local revenue enhancement,” said the Minister.
He also implored Local Government Leaders who included LCV Chairpersons, Resident District Commissioners and Chief Administrative Officers to embrace efforts towards the implementation of the Parish Development Model.
The Local Government Leaders across the country also received and discussed presentations by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies on Local Economic Development and progress on implementation of the Parish Development Model, Access to affordable credit under the Agriculture Credit Facility and Small Business Recovery Fund.
Other presentations were on measures for enhancing local revenue performance, strengthening the fight against financial crime and integrating growth opportunities through the NDPIII programme approach.
Feedback on issues raised during budget consultations for FY 2023/24 and National Budget Conference FY 2024/25
The Finance Minister said Government has addressed a number of issues raised during last financial year consultation workshops in this current budget for FY 2023/24, while some others that required additional funding and could not be addressed will be prioritized in FY 2024/25.
Regarding the low share of funding for decentralized services, the Minister said adequate financing for service delivery is critical, and the Government will continue addressing this concern in a phased manner.
He said the funding shortfalls for ex-gratia and production grant has been addressed through a supplementary based on reported shortfalls and guidance by the Ministry of Local Government, adding that these funds will be released in the second quarter of FY 2023/24.
On rationalization of funds appropriated in central government Ministries, Departments and Agencies for decentralized services, the Minister said these funds will be streamlined in the respective Local Government votes starting FY 2024/25 in order to ensure efficiency and limit duplication of efforts.
Challenges faced by Local Governments that should be addressed
Local governments highlighted a number of challenges affecting service delivery and these include: Inadequate budget allocations, uncoordinated directives from the central government, failure to remit local service tax to places where employees reside, operationalization of new administrative units and low uptake of Agricultural Credit Fund and Small Business Recovery Fund due to lack of the necessary information.
Other challenges noted include inadequate staffing, late release of funds to local governments, slow implementation of projects due to hybrid procurement processes and lack of funds for supervision and monitoring projects like PDM and Emyooga and slow adoption of automation and digitization in local government and limited understanding of programme based planning and budgeting among others.
The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in their statement applauded government for engaging various stakeholders in the Local Government Budget Consultations, adding that these engagements offer an opportunity to identify key priority service delivery areas that require consideration when allocating resources to Local Governments.
The Civil society asked government to expedite the renovation of dilapidated schools and health infrastructure, prioritize routine maintenance of community access roads and also support local governments to enhance local revenue mobilization and management by ensuring that they have revenue registers and registered tax payers.
They also want government to partner with the private sector on issues of managing the environment and climate change and also use the savings on the government of Uganda wage bill after payroll verification to prioritize filling critical staffing positions in Local Governments.