Govt Explains Rationale for Merging, Disbanding Agencies

Catherine Bitarakwate, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service. (Photo: New Vision)

Government has revealed that the decision to disband a number of its agencies and merge the others will save close to a trillion Uganda shillings (Shs 988bn) which has been spent on wages, operations and rent.

The Agencies, Commissions and Authorities were absorbing a whopping Shs 10.8 trillion, representing 37% of the national budget, according to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Catherine Bitarakwate.

She said that the restructuring will boost efficiency in the delivery of services.

“In the short term, we expect to get efficiency, cost savings by merging the administrative functions - procurement, accounts, human resource and the like, where we will save about Shs 98bn,” Bitarakwate told journalists on Tuesday.

Among the agencies that will lose their autonomy is Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).

Read More: FULL LIST: UNRA, UTB, NAADS Lose Autonomy in Major Govt Restructuring

“We expect that this money is what will be used to harmonize the salaries across the board. The local government structures are not filled to 100%. We have been looking for funds to fill these structures starting with heads of departments in these local governments,” she said.

She said that staffing levels in some local governments are as low as 30%.

Bitarakwate noted that some agencies like the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board have since lost relevance.

The review made on 153 Agencies, Commissions and Authorities discovered that there were a disparity in supervisions due to the legal framework that established them. This made government’s supervisory role in order to check efficiencies difficult.

On his part, Minister for Information, Frank Tumwebaze said: “It is not good to have government officials serving the public having different salary scales. Whether you work for UCC or Ministry of ICT, you are all working for the government of Uganda”.

“Even those agencies which will remain, still the pay will be streamlined”.

He attributed the lack of motivation on the part of officials in the mainstream government to this same salary disparity.

Contrary to the notion that the restructuring might affect efficiency especially given that the incentives such as higher pay (which has been the case in agencies) will be scrapped, Tumwebaze said that the changes in designation won’t affect efficiency.

“Even if the agency is brought to the Ministry, the technical functions that it has been running will remain”.

He said that agencies that are in the business of trading or training services have been retained.

Loss of jobs

While it is clear that several people will lose jobs as a result of this process, Tumwebaze says that there will be other jobs created (including non formal ones) in the lower levels of government.

“Yes, certainly restructuring will abolish some jobs but it will create others. If you remove the duplicated functions, you create more. Those who lose jobs in agency X or Y can go and work in Kabong or Kamwenge,” he said.

He added that the expansion of services in turn creates other employment opportunities.

Commenting on the issue of loss of jobs, Bitarakwate said that the government officials who will be laid off as a result of abolition of their positions, will be compensated as provided for in the Pensions Act and Public Service standing orders.

“All these jobs attract a contract gratuity. At the end of every tenure of office, there is a compensation package. It is the same thing that will happen with those that will be made redundant,” she said.

She said that the agency Heads and other staffer who wish to be absorbed in the Ministries will be given an opportunity to apply.

Regarding efficiency, she said that government will adapt the models that have promoted efficiency in these agencies.

“It’s not that we are pouring the birth water along with the baby out. Because we are merging these agencies, we are merging efficiency, good practices and functionality,” she said.

On when this restructuring will take effect, Tumwebaze explained that this will require the repealing or amendment of the relevant laws that established them. This could take weeks or months.

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