The NRM party chief whip, Ms Kasule Lumumba, yesterday saved the government embarrassment when she stepped in to stop two ministers who were sparring in Parliament over what has caused the delay in paying April salaries of civil servants.
Ms Lumumba saved the ministers further trouble when she proposed, and it was agreed, that the Finance minister be given up to tomorrow to come up with clear answers.
“This is mis-coordination on the part of the Executive for ministers to come here and start blaming each other without offering any substantial solutions to the problems at hand,” Ms Lumumba said.
The plight of unpaid civil servants was brought to the attention of the House by Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera who warned that the health of Ugandans is at risk as frustrated health workers in some areas like Kisoro District have laid down their tools.
With MPs recounting similar tales from their constituencies, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga asked Mr Henry Kajura, the Public Service minister, to explain why the government perennially fails to pay the salaries of civil servants on time.
In a brief response, Mr Kajura argued that salaries are currently processed by accounting officers - effectively absolving his ministry of any blame. Teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, public prosecutors and prison officers form the bulk of the affected civil servants.
Most of them are from districts whose chief administrative officers did not beat the deadline for submitting their payroll details to the Finance ministry, according to the government.
However, Ms Kadaga, unsatisfied with the minister’s response, inquired: “These are small people who earn small money. Children are going back to school soon, what will they do?”
When Mr Aston Kajara, the State minister for Finance, was pressed for answers, he told MPs the Finance ministry carried out an audit that revealed the Public Service ministry was unaware of the number of civil servants on its payroll, triggering reforms of the payment system.
“For a long time, processing of salaries was being handled by the ministry of Finance. But even when Finance paid all the money for salaries, the ministry of Public Service would still come up with a supplementary request. That is to say Public Service did not know the number of their employees,” Mr Kajara said.
He added: “We carried out an audit and discovered more than 7,000 ghost workers. We reformed the system and we must know the number of employees.”