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UMI to set management benchmark for government

The Uganda Management Institute (UMI) will soon set up a clinic to assist troubled organisations. According to the UMI director general, Dr John Nkata, the move follows demand for assistance from the public.

“Several people have come forward to ask for this service. We are establishing management clinics, so that if for example a ministry is having challenges, we can have experts look at it and recommend solutions to the crisis,” he said.

Nkata was speaking last week during a half-day workshop called to consider the outcomes of an August 24 international conference on public governance, held in Kampala.

That conference drew in delegates from 45 countries, who made recommendations on how to improve governance in Africa. Last week’s session was called to brief permanent secretaries from various ministries.

Some of the recommendations include a call to improve the quality of service delivery, through ending corruption and the setting up of a centre of management excellence to train managers in quality service delivery. In explaining the thinking behind improving management in government, Dr Nkata called for a philosophy by which the institutions would operate.

“We can’t talk about service delivery without a philosophy to which all structures respond,” he said. “If you look at the US, they always talk about the American dream and all institutions, public and private respond to this – but in Uganda, to what end do we operate?”

In response, the permanent secretary in the health ministry, Dr Asuman Lukwago, agreed that there was a need for UMI to take advantage of its expertise to assist in improved administration.

“UMI should set the gold standard for best management practice to which we can look at for advice,” he said.  “You should study our policies and strategies and see if they can be improved, then we can work together to improve together.”

Aggrey Kibenge, an undersecretary in the prime minister’s office, agreed, insisting that the UMI consider all kinds of civil servants.

“There are those who join [the civil service] straight from school, but there also those who we harvest from the private sector…The UMI should also consider training those already in service and those who are just joining,” he said.

However, Edith Mwanje, a permanent secretary in the ministry of East African Community Affairs, argued that whereas the UMI was welcome to assist government improve service delivery, some solutions were already in place, but not being practiced.

“We need to simplify what we do and make it routine. Nobody needs to see the boss,” she said. “Why do we have to complicate service delivery? Look at the process of getting a land title, national ID, driving permit, does this require one to talk to the boss, before you get them?”

Chief guest John Mitala, who is head of the public service seemed to agree with Mwanje.

“What is failing service, delivery in Uganda is the lack of supervision. Why don’t the supervisors remove non-performers from their positions? Why transfer non-performers?” he asked, as some shifted uncomfortably in their seats. “In our regulations, there is a provision for the commissions [education, judicial, health and public service commission] to ask one to show cause why they should not be discontinued, why is no one invoking that provision?”

Mitala added that Uganda was the first country in Africa to set up written exams for civil servants in 1989, in a bid to improve the quality of recruits into the civil service. He was anxious that supervisors weed non-performers from their positions instead of giving excuses.

One of the UMI researchers on management, Dr Gerald Karyeija, proposed to start a dialogue with various government institutions to find a way of meeting the recommendations of the August conference.

“We shall be meeting you in March to consider the proposals and see how to improve service provision in government,” he said.

His colleague, Dr Sylvester Kugonza, also urged senior civil servants to consider sharing their management experiences with juniors.

“We have a UMI journal on management practice. Even those of you who are not strictly from academia are welcome to share your experiences – so many others can benefit,” Kugonza said.

mtalemwa@observer.ug

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