Some Members of Parliament from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party have denounced government’s continued expenditure towards the organisation of January 26 NRM liberation day fete when the country continues to be entrapped in perpetual problems of hunger, disease and poverty.
Although the real economic cost of this year’s fete in Masindi were hard to come across, it is estimated that the presence of nearly all top government officials in a distant location as Masindi comes with heavy costs in transportation, logistics, per diem, refreshments and organisation. Sources familiar with such organisation put an estimation of the cost to UGX1 billion.
Efforts to get the exact budget from the NRM Party Deputy treasurer DR. Kenneth Omona were futile as he was not answering our calls.
This expenditure, amidst a sea of challenges facing the country, is getting some MPs from the ruling Party angry. For example, Moroto Municipality MP Fred Angella sounded the alarm about the extent of food shortages in his constituency, including death of people, as a huge embarrassment to the country and one that deserves a better response than a party.
The critical MPs argue that government must exercise frugality not just as a show of solidarity with the suffering millions of Ugandans but to actually save money to rescue the people from the dire situations of poverty and famine.
Ndorwa County MP Wilfred Niwagaba told The Sunrise that this government is wasteful on national resources no wonder they have allowed the destruction of swamps and forests which has resulted in nature paying us back in an unprecedented scale ever before.
“Look at the long list of national holidays including the NRM day which we have to celebrate expensively in Uganda. How many irrigation schemes could we build with the monies that are being spent to hold such functions?” Niwagaba asked.
“If they are not careful, Ugandans will one day rise up in fury and chase away resource wasters if this trend is left to continue to a climax.” He added.
Buyaga West MP had no kinder words either.
He told The Sunrise that it is unreasonable for any leadership that insists on “a celebration spree” while people in our villages are suffering continuously.
“It is high time the NRM Government came out of the cocoon of posturing as we liberated Ugandans when people in our villages are yet to be liberated from things like drought, famine and disease,” Tinkasimire said and added: “That is sheer sadism.”
One NRM Party official at the NRM secretariat who spoke to this journalist on condition of anonymity agreed with the dissenting voices on the subject.
The NRM source praised Tanzania’s president John Magufuli Pombe for scrapping Tz’s national holidays and instead ordered the state funds set aside for those celebrations to be spent on road works.
“I think we have some lessons to learn from actions of President Magufuli Lately. He is also on record for cancelling celebrations meant to take place in December last year to mark Tanzania’s Independence Day, reasoning that it would be shameful to spend such funds on the occasion while a cholera outbreak was ravaging the country,” he said.
He added: “Likewise, truth be told. It is improper to spend millions on similar celebrations including transport, feeding and per diem for high profile Party officials and government technocrats for just one day when thousands of supporters who voted the NRM party into power are on the verge of dying from starvation.”
Bugabula South MP Henry Kibalya has faulted the NRM government on hefty funds spent on this week’s NRM day celebrations at a time where there are budget cuts almost in every ministry including key ones such as agriculture and Health owing to the prevailing hard economic conditions.
“Supposing the usual budget (for NRM day celebration) has always been UGX1bn, it needed to be cut down to as low as UGX10m for example, excluding less important expenditures like entertainment, transport and Per diem. ” Kibalya said albeit maintaining his support for celebrating the dawn of “the NRM’s revolution”
“It can’t continue being business as usual when hunger is killing our People in various parts of the country. It would be prudent to make that day only ceremonial with minimal expenditure to save that money for purposes of relief aid to Ugandans in dire need of it,” argues Kibalya.