Members of Parliament have threatened to block the passing of new supplementary budgets unless the Finance Ministry offsets 36.08 billion shillings in arrears accumulated under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE).
The arrears were accumulated during the 4th quarter of Financial Year 2020/21. They were meant to be paid out to 270,203 elderly people across 146 districts in the country. MPs were told that the grant had not been paid out for the last eight months.
Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection and also the Kyegegwa District Woman MP, points out that the development partners fulfilled their obligations but the Finance Ministry failed on its part.
Kabahenda told MPs that at the passing of the current budget of 2021–2022, the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development gave assurance that they would develop a supplementary budget to offset the arrears, but to no avail, making the beneficiaries restive.
She pointed out that while the Finance Ministry proposed in the budget framework paper to push the supplementary budget to the next Fiscal Year 2022/23 as domestic arrears, the proposal was dropped in the budget call circular, making a mockery of the elderly.
Asuman Basalirwa, the Bugiri Municipality MP, criticised the government for failing to cater to the older people in the country.
Muwanga Muhammad Kivumbi, the Member of Parliament for Butambala County, faulted the Ministry for undermining the budget process because the 10th Parliament appropriated money for SAGE but there is no supplementary budget for the same.
Stephen Kasaija, the Head of Programme Management at the Unit Sage Implementation under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, says that they have engaged the Finance Ministry to provide funds to clear the arrears and also address the funding gap in the 2022/23 financial year budget.
Kasaija told MPs that the Gender Ministry wrote to Finance requesting a supplementary to offset the arrears but it was not done by the end of the 2021/22 financial year.
Deputy Speaker Anita Among directed the State Minister for Finance, Henry Ariganyira Musasizi, also a Member of Parliament for Rubanda County East in Kabale District, to make an official statement about the irregularities of the programme on Thursday.