Friday, 6 July 2012

Mbabazi attends Rwenzururu cultural celebrations

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Press Release from Prime Minister’s Press Unit Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi on Saturday attended celebrations of the Rwenzururu cultural institution which was marking 50 years of existence, in Bundibugyo Town Council. Mbabazi was representing the President as chief guest at the ceremony. He thanked the people of Bundibugyo for their continued support of NRM. He said the issue of Obusinga (Rwenzururu institution) is a cultural issue to be determined by the people of Rwenzururu. The Constitution that restored the Obusinga allowed all those that wished to enjoy their culture to do so. He said this while addressing a rally of Rwenzuru loyalists to mark the occasion and promised to go back for a discussion over cultural issues. Mbabazi had earlier addressed a meeting of all district leaders at the district headquarters who gave him a memorandum on the issues affecting the district. The meeting was attended by State Minister for Primary Education Kamanda Bataringaya (also Bwamba County MP), Members of Parliament Harriet Ntabazi (area Woman), James Mbahimba (Kasese Municipality) and Joseph Kilegheya Sibalingene (Bughendera County). The District LCV Chairman, Jolly Tibemanya, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Wilson Isingoma and district councilors also attended. During the meeting, the leaders raised various issues among them issues of finances to the district. They complained about late releases from government, district budget indicators being below what they requisitioned and the lack of an alternate resource for graduated tax. Mbabazi said graduated tax cannot be reinstated because local authorities have failed to justify it. Additionally, the collection of graduated tax was too primitive and expensive to sustain the tax. He said the current low levels of revenue collection being advanced as a reason for its reinstatement were not convincing. President Yoweri Museveni abolished the tax during the 2005 presidential campaigns, arguing that it was regressive and expensive to collect. The government replaced it with the local service and local hotels taxes. However, some Members of Parliament and several district leaders have advocated for its reinstatement. They argue that its abolition has vastly constrained operations of local governments. They advance the idea of finding alternate sources of revenue such as building markets. Mbabazi said. “The question of low local revenue collection is something we should discuss because it cuts across.” The district Chairman Jolly Tibemanya said Bundibugyo had suffered a budget cut of Shs 2.5b for the 2012/13 financial year. Such gaps, he said, would in the past be bridged by graduated tax collections which funded most districts by up to 75 percent. He highlighted a number of achievements, saying 90 percent of the district budget was funded by the central government. Mbabazi said his office, even as the Leader of Government Business in Parliament, had also received zero releases in the last quarter of the financial year. He said such budget cuts were inevitable because the Ministry of Finance disbursed what it received from revenue collection. “We expected to raise an additional Shs 528b compared to last year’s (2011/12) collections but there were no budget increases. Most money went to minimal increases in salaries and allowances to science teachers,” Mbabazi explained. He said the balance was for development of Karuma hydropower. The Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Wilson Isingoma briefed Mbabazi on the threat of ADF rebels in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He also outlined challenges in the disbursement of loans under the Youth Venture Fund.