Kampala. Makerere University has accumulated debts of about Shs125b in unpaid pension arrears to staff, incentives, utility bills and teaching materials, Vice Chancellor John Ddumba Ssentamu has said.
“We have pension arrears, teaching expenses, unpaid suppliers and utility bills. The staff are demanding their incentive which we don’t have now,” Prof Ddumba said in an interview on Thursday.
Asked whether the university can sustain payment of the incentive to staff introduced three years ago after a number of strikes in demand for a pay rise, Prof Ddumba said: “If we have not paid six months, what does it imply?” He then declined to give details.
However, the former Makerere University deputy vice chancellor in charge of finance and administration, Prof Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa, insists that it was a mistake for the institution to commit itself to this payment because they did not have avenues of generating the money. He argued that what students pay is much less than what it costs to train them.
Mr Bruce Balaba Kabaasa who headed a committee that introduced the incentive, said it was time for the staff to forego it after government increased their pay last year.
Mr Muhammed Kiggundu, the academic staff chairperson, on Thursday explained that when the President promised to increase their salaries to Shs15m per month for a professor in 2013, it was expected to be effected immediately. However, the Finance ministry did not have the block figure and promised to pay it in three phases starting 2015/2016 financial year.
Mr Kiggundu acknowledged that all public universities received Shs50b from government to enhance their pay and that already another Shs50b was reflected in the current Budget.
He added that they have now agreed with management to start deducting their incentive by 25 per cent starting this month which will be used to offset some of the debts. “But we will continue demanding from the university the six months they have not paid since it was in another financial year,” Mr Kiggundu said.
The university pays Shs2.4b per month to staff as incentive. Before the incentive was introduced, a lecturer in College of Humanities was earning Shs2.9m.
But this has increased to Shs4.8m before tax in the new government schedule. A professor who is earning Shs3.5m monthly will be getting Shs8.3m.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said in a separate interview last week on the university’s indebtedness: “That is not a big problem. The university should handle. We cannot go into indebtedness now. It requires to be thoroughly examined; to look at the issues to see what government should handle and see what the university should handle. No, government can’t take on the entire wage bill. We want to examine issues first. We don’t want premature commitments.”