Sunday June 1 2014

All eyes on Nation Address

President Museveni is expected to

President Museveni is expected to address the nation on Thursday. Photo by Geoffrey Sseruyange 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

President Museveni will on Thursday give the State-of- the-Nation Address. The NRM leader is also expected to focus on the progress, challenges at hand and hint on the 2014/15 budget priorities.

Quoting from the Book of Genesis, the President last year said Uganda was moving forward but some things take a bit of time to be fulfilled.
He said even God took six days to create the world. “Of course not all the things I talked about last year have been fulfilled because many of them take time, and in any case the resources are limited.”
MPs across the political spectrum have said it is essential that Mr Museveni forgets the political squabbles within the NRM party and seize the opportunity to address the bottlenecks to economic growth. They have called for a year of action and an end to political squabbles.

The lawmakers think that without addressing the challenges people face, the State-of-the-Nation Address will be a waste of time.

In particular, the MPs have asked the President to be specific on issues of job creation, unemployment, corruption and fixing roads, power and the economy.
To some Opposition members, the President, who has led the country since 1986, has run out of new ideas needed to jump start the economy. They say instead of using the Address to give accountability to the nation, Museveni simply paints a rosy picture of the economy, praises the NRM party and boasts of restoring peace and stability, yet in the countryside, Ugandans are suffering.

The former Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, said President Museveni’s challenge is to close the extensive gap between the wealthy ministers in his Cabinet and other Ugandans. Mr Mafabi said it will be “foolhardy” for anybody to expect the President to use the Address to position himself as a champion of the poor.

However, the minister in charge of the Presidency, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, said the Opposition “have eyes but they cannot see”, “they are just playing politics”.
MPs probe delayed salaries

Before Speaker Rebecca Kadaga sent Parliament on recess two weeks ago, she instituted a Select Committee to investigate the delayed salaries for civil servants. More than 9,000 civil servants counted as ghosts had missed their pay for several months.

The government said the ghosts had infiltrated its payroll and that the delays were as a result of the payroll cleaning exercise. Ministry of Finance also blamed the accounting officers whom they said were hesitant to sign payroll documents for fear that in case of the ghosts; they would be putting ropes around their necks.
Parliament heard that in the process of decentralising the payments system, they have deleted some civil servants.

The House Committee on Public Service and Local Government chaired by Zombo Woman MP, Grace Freedom Kwiyuchiny investigated the delayed salaries but did not get to the root cause of the problem.

Their recommendations were ambiguous and this explains why Ms Kadaga set up a team of legislators to study the committee recommendations and report back to the House. However, this Select Committee, like many other committees in Parliament, is procrastinating on a very important matter as Ugandans continue to yawn.

Every time the issue of delayed salaries is raised on the floor, instead of finding a lasting solution to what has become a recurrent problem, the MPs are quick to scorn the authorities.

When the issue of delayed salaries for civil servants came on the floor, the minister for Public Service, Mr Henry Kajura Muganwa, said the responsibility of managing and paying salaries for civil servants is no longer with his ministry.

He said the delays cannot be blamed on his ministry because it’s Ministry of Finance managing the government payroll under the new payment system.
Ministry of Finance is also quick to blame the payment system.

The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, told MPs on Public Service and Local Government committe recently, that to weed out the ghosts on the government payroll; a decision had been taken to decentralise the payment of civil servants salaries. He said under the new system, he only pays depending on the verified payroll documents submitted by the accounting officers.

Teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, public prosecutors and prison officers form the bulk of the affected civil servants.

The MPs on the Select Committee only started work last week.