Friday, May 8, 2020

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Uganda welcome the swift response by The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to approve the Government of Uganda request for disbursement of US$ 491.5 Million emergency assistance under the Rapid Credit Facility to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This move by the IMF comes in handy given the health and economic challenges that Uganda is facing during these unprecedented times. According to the statement by the IMF the US $ 491.5 million will help finance the health, social protection and macroeconomic stabilization measures. It will also meet the urgent balance-of-payments and fiscal needs arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.

As is in the rest of the world is facing its worst health and economic crisis amidst declining domestic tax revenues, broken global supply chains, fallen commodity prices, diminishing official development assistance and rising debt levels. An Oxfam analysis shows that this crisis could set back the fight against poverty thirty years in sub-Saharan Africa. The Economic Commission for Africa also estimates that anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19, depending on the intervention measures taken to stop the spread. The IMF has warned that this pandemic will trigger the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than that seen during the 2008 financial crisis. The government of Uganda therefore must use all means to protect and boost its limited resources to slow and stop the pandemic and avert a collapse of the economy.

However, as CSOs and citizens, we are not privy to the details of the facility. Specifically, we do not know what health and social protection measures the facility will be supporting. We cannot underscore the challenges we face in areas of public resource management therefore transparency and accountability remain a critical issue and might even be more pronounced at this time of the pandemic where decisions are made rather quickly.

We have noted that the IMF has committed to ‘’continue monitoring Uganda’s situation closely and stands ready to provide policy advice and further support as needed” ; We do call upon the IMF to:

  • Promote fiscal consolidation measures that will support the Government of Uganda to mobilize more domestic revenues while implementing fair tax policies that do not further burden the poor and most vulnerable Ugandans, while at the same time ensuring that there is more public spending on health, education, social development and agriculture sectors.

The Fund also stated that the “authorities have also committed to put in place targeted transparency and accountability measures to ensure the appropriate use of emergency financing” These are welcome developments. We are however mindful that for the CSO and citizens to monitor the utilization of emergency spending, the IMF should ensure that the commitments of the Ugandan authorities translate into clear guidelines that are accessible to the citizens. The impact of this pandemic shows that there is an urgent need for financing and yet there is a tendency for rush decisions.

To ensure transparency and accountability particularly when the country is experiencing limited movement, full parliamentary oversight and independent civil society tracking and monitoring of emergency expenditures is crucial. However, the civil society can only play its role when it has access to information with regards to the government’s spending of the emergency funds.

While we know and appreciate that citizens do not need to be privy to all of the numerous discussions between the IMF and Government of Uganda as well as the policy advisories as they happen at bilateral levels, we CSOs call upon the IMF to include in its facility terms, provisions which ensures the active participation of civil society in the oversight of Government’s investment of such facilities. Our basis for asking for this practice is rooted in the special nature of financing facilities such as loans. Loan obligations stretch across generations and its burdens are higher if they are misused. CSO’s access to the decisions taken by the government on expenditure will ensure transparency and accountability of these emergency funds. For this reason, we call upon the IMF to depart from the normal requirements and practice of transparency and accountability and adopt more stringent measures.

To facilitate independent tracking, monitoring, and reporting of the IMF facility and other related COVID-19 spending, we call upon the Government of Uganda to:

  • Publish Uganda’s all COVID-19 response plan, revenue generation plans, and funds raised, and budgetary allocations.
  • As obligated under the open contracting measures, publish in a timely manner all emergency procurement plans and notices including names of awarded companies and of beneficial owners.

As promoters of social accountability, CSOs stand ready to offer support to the leadership of this country to ensure that the implementation of interventions for this facility by the technical bureaucracy is followed. We are also ready to offer any support to complement smooth implementation of this facility to ensure it benefits all citizens of Uganda.

More Information

On 6th May 2020, IMF Executive Board approved US$491.5 million in Emergency Support to Uganda under the Rapid Credit Facility to support the Government’s efforts in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact information: For Oxfam in Uganda: Dorah.Ntunga@oxfam.org For CSBAG: jmukunda@csbag.org