EAC budget sails through, but questions remain

The East Africa Legislative Assembly during a session in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Some members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) admit that the EAC budgets have become increasingly unrealistic

Arusha. The annual budget of the East African Community (EAC), the highest in four years, has been approved, apparently without a hitch.

But as the regional assembly adjourned business, questions remain as to whether the much needed cash will be remitted to the Arusha coffers in time.

Some members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) admit that the EAC budgets have become increasingly unrealistic.

This is primarily due to delayed or non-remittance of mandatory contributions by some partner states, paralysing the day-to-day operations of the regional body.

Eala, the legislative organ of the Community, passed on Thursday last week an expenditure budget amounting to $103.8 million for the EAC for 2023/2024 financial year.

The approved budget include changes in the allocation of funds to different organs and planned activities within the Community.

However, the MPs said they were still concerned by limited contributions from the partner states which are supposed to jointly raise $59million of $103 million kitty.

The development partners are expected to inject $44.8 million or 43 percent of the estimates while the outstanding amount will be raised from other sources.

Each of the seven member states in the bloc is supposed to contribute $7.3 million for the 2023/24 budget of the Community.

Before the House adjourned, some MPs said they were worried some regional programmes will "remain unimplemented" for scarcity of funds.

“The Community continues to make unrealistic budgets owing to delayed or non-remittance of funds by some countries," said Kennedy Ayason Mukulia from South Sudan.

Mr Mukulia, who is the chairperson of Eala's Committee of General Purpose, said efforts to sanction non-compliant states equally have failed.

Repeatedly proposed sanctions against countries which do not honour their financial contributions in time have made countless times but literally not worked.

This was more pronounced a few years ago when the seven-nation Community faced its worst cash crisis, nearly stalling some routine activities.

The Assembly has passed several resolutions urging the Council of Ministers to invoke the relevant Treaty provisions to sanction countries which failed to meet their financial obligations.

Finally, in 2020 a draft of schedule of proposed sanctions against non-compliant partner states was crafted but has apparently stalled.

Currently South Sudan, which joined the EAC in 2016, owes the bloc more than any other of the seven member countries of the Community.

Juba owed the EAC a whopping $22 million in arrears, including some $ 7.3 million contribution that has not yet been paid for the current (2022/23) fiscal year.

Another partner state in arrears is Burundi, with slightly over $5 million unpaid contribution to EAC before the current fiscal year.

George Odongo, a lawmaker from Uganda, said failure by South Sudan to pay its dues was enough indication that it was not serious about its membership to the bloc.

"As we speak, this budget will be entering the second year and South Sudan is still indebted and has zero contribution in the previous budget," he said.

He requested EAC to “consider activating provision of the Treaty for suspension of members that are not contributing to the Community”.

Tanzania, alongside with Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have been hailed for making their contributions in time and are currently not owed a penny.

It was at that point that Woda Jeremiah, a legislator from South Sudan rose to urge his country that enough was enough and that is should settle the arrears.

She said before the fourth Eala closed shop in December last year, the country had committed before the House that to pay $15 million of the outstanding arrears before the end of 2022/23 fiscal year.

Ms Fatuma Ndangiza from Rwanda challenged the EAC secretariat to put in place a mechanism that will ensure each partner state pays its contributions without fail.