AT long last, the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers has approved the community’s 2020/2021 budget estimates totaling 97.6m US dollars (about 244.48bn/-).
During its 41st Extra-Ordinary Meeting held via Video-Conferencing, the Council adopted the budget that will cater for three EAC organs and institutions' recurrent and development expenditure for the current financial year that runs from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
This comes after a substantial delay that was caused by the ministers not tabling the budget.
During the next financial year, the community will focus on seven key global priority areas. Those are Consolidation of the Single Customs Territory (SCT) to cover all imports and intra-EAC traded goods, including agricultural and other widely consumed products.
Other areas are infrastructure development; enhancing free movement of all factors of production and other areas of cooperation across the partner states as envisaged under the Common Market and Monetary Union Protocols; enhancement of regional industrial development through investment in key priority sectors; skills development, technological advancement and innovation to stimulate economic development.
Of the total amount, 55.6m US dollars will come from EAC partner states, while development partners will contribute 41.9m US dollars.
The EAC organs are the EAC Secretariat, East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and East African Court of Justice (EACJ).
Regional institutions include the Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation, Inter-University Council for East Africa; East African Kiswahili Commission; East African Health Research Commission, East African Science and Technology Organisation and the East African Competition Authority.
Chairperson of the Council, Dr Vincent Biruta, who is also Rwanda's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community, is expected to table the 2020/2021 budget estimates before the East African Legislative Assembly for debate and approval, anytime this month.
EALA approved 111,450,529 US dollars for the FY 2019/2020. It was appropriated as the Secretariat (53,296,404 US dollars), EALA (18,973,845 US dollars) and the EACJ 4,225,241 US dollars. For the current FY the Council approved expenditure budget estimates of 2.7m US dollars for the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) in addition to partner states contributions through their Civil Aviation Authorities towards the FY2020/2021 Budget Estimates of 458,910 US dollars each.
Other key priority areas in the budget include improvement of agricultural productivity, value addition and facilitation of movement of agricultural goods to enhance food security in the region; Promotion of regional peace, security and good governance, and; Institutional transformation at the regional and partner state levels.
The Council also renewed the contracts of 25 members of professional staff in the EAC organs and institutions who were appointed in 2015 and whose contracts have since expired or were due to expire by the end of August 2020 for a final term of five years in accordance with the provisions of the EAC Staff Rules and Regulations (2006).
It also approved the issuance of new contracts for short term staff for a period of six months from July 1, to December 31, this year. Apart from Dr Biruta, the one-day meeting was attended by partner ministers of EAC Affairs, Mr Adan Mohammed (Kenya), Ambassador Ezechiel Nibigira (Burundi), Mr Deng Alor Kuol (South Sudan), Major General Kahinda Otafiire (Uganda) and Dr Damas Ndumbaro (Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Tanzania).
Also, in attendance were the EAC Secretary General, Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko and his two deputies, Engineer Steven Mlote (DSG-Infrastructure and Planning, also the Acting DSG-Finance and Administration) and Mr Christophe Bazivamo (DSG-Productive and Social Sectors).