A cabinet decision on Monday to disband 71 government agencies has set off panic amongst employees.
The decision follows a report compiled last year by a team headed by President Museveni’s younger brother, Gen Caleb Akandwanaho (Salim Saleh) on wasteful government expenditure. The Saleh team recommended that certain government agencies be either merged or abolished.
ICT and Information minister Frank Tumwebaze told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre that Museveni chaired the cabinet meeting, which endorsed the proposal.
“Among the reasons for the decision is to eliminate functional ambiguities, duplications and overlaps among government institutions,” Tumwebaze said.
There are 153 government agencies, commissions and statutory authorities, some of which are doing work that can be handled directly by their parent ministries. Since many of them are semi-autonomous, they have been determining their staff salaries and allowances which in most cases are significantly more than what is earned by colleagues in the ministries.
“Staff in the agencies have been earning higher than the people in ministries - about five to 10 times which was demotivating to other government employees,” Tumwebaze said.
According to the permanent secretary, ministry of Public Service, Catherine Bitarakwate Musingwiire, these entities have been taking about 37 percent of the total government wage bill. On average, government has been spending more than Shs 988 billion to foot salaries in these agencies.
“This money will be used to harmonise salaries of government employees across the board,” Bitarakwate said.
According to Tumwebaze, government is preparing to table before parliament a bill repealing the various laws under which the entities were created. Staff under the abolished entities will either be absorbed by mother ministries, sent to the districts or given an out-of-contract gratuity.
Quite a number, however, will be left jobless. For instance, most heads, and quite a few employees, were politically appointed, which means that they lack the technical knowledge that may qualify them for jobs under the new set-up.
While Tumwebaze tried to downplay suggestions that the agencies’ abolition would worsen the unemployment problem, Bitarakwate agreed that many were going to lose jobs.
“But most of the people in the agencies are on contract which is normally three years. If they want, they can re-apply; those that don’t want will be given a retirement package because their contracts have a clause on out of contract gratuity,” Bitarakwate said.
Officials did not say how much will likely be spent on the retirement packages.
“Each individual agency has its own policy. The retirement packages differ; it is not centrally controlled,” a senior official, who preferred not to be named, said.
Among the entities sampled by The Observer, a sense of anxiety was evident.
“Apart from the press release, we haven’t got any formal communication from the ministry. We are waiting to see how they going to handle it,” said a staff at one of the places.
Some agencies due for scrapping have staffing levels in excess of 2,000 employees spread across the country. For instance, National Agricultural Advisory Services has at least 10 people in each of the 130 districts, plus the staff at the headquarters.
Uganda National Roads Authority has an estimate of 1,400 employees while those under Uganda Wildlife Authority could be above 2,000.