Mubende. The vast understaffing gap in Mubende, one of the geographically largest districts in the country with 19 sub–counties, is affecting service delivery, officials have said.
The Auditor General’s report submitted to Parliament on December 29 last year listed Mubende as one district with the highest under-staffing levels in the country with a human resource gap of almost 77 per cent.
According to Ms Lillian Nakamatte, the district’s chief administrative officer (CAO), more than 505 posts in various departments have remained vacant following a directive from the Ministry of Public Service stopping all districts from recruiting new staff.
“Education is the most affected department with more than 245 vacant positions, including 16 head teachers, 75 deputy head teachers, 23 senior education assistants and 134 Grade III teachers,” Ms Nakamatte said in an interview last week.
She said the district health department has 26 vacant positions, administration department has 45, statutory bodies has two, planning department (10), finance department (nine) natural resources department (1) community based services (five), production department (10) extension workers (15) trade, industry and local economic development (five) Kasambya Town Council (54)among others.
The Auditor General’s report also indicates that under-staffing has overstretched the available staff beyond their capacity, thus creating job-related stress to the available staff.
The report advised the district accounting officer to continue engaging the ministries of Public Service, Local Government and Finance to address the problem.
However, the district chairperson, Mr Francis Kibuuka, said they have on several occasions, written to the Public Service and Finance ministries about the challenges but have not yet received a response.
“I appeal to the government to look into this matter so that we fill these vacant positions and enable our district perform to its full capacity,” Mr Kibuuka said.
“It is true we are understaffed but there is no money to cater for wages of new staff. So, recruiting more workers without increasing our wage bill will create more problems,” he added.
Recently, the Ministry of Finance suggested a temporary halt of all new recruitments across public service citing lack of funds.
The ministry further noted that new staff recruitment should be carried out strictly on replacement basis.
Mr Kibuuka wondered how new pupils enrolled in public schools will effectively study if there are no teachers.
The district has a total of 439 primary schools of which, 299 are government aided.
Mr Kibuuka said the district has two health centres, but cannot be opened since there are no health workers.
The district receives a total of Shs17b annually and nearly Shs4.3b per quarter (three months) for staff wages, but this money, according to the CAO, is not enough to cater for wages of new staff.
“We need at least an additional Shs2.9 billion annually to cater for the required human resource,” Ms Nakamatte said.
However, Mr Simeo Nsubuga, Kasanda South MP, blamed some district officials for the poor service delivery.
“We admit that there is a problem of understaffing, which is a general problem across the country, but still, the few civil servants we have in Mubende are lazy and corrupt,” he said.
Mr Nsubuga said there are a number of ‘ghost’ employees across different departments in the district, adding that he had already invited the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate district officials.
Understaffing is not limited to Mubende alone. According to Auditor General’s report, although the planned number of staff to be recruited at district, municipality and sub-county levels was 5,000, by close of the financial year under review (2016/17), the number of positions filled was only 2,760, leaving a staffing gap of 2,240.
Recently, the secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, blamed government’s failure to fill the vacant positions on the rising population and the “choice to expand government” through creation of new districts, counties and municipalities.
Mr Muhakanizi said “it is not a question of blame game, but a question of prioritisation and pressures of expanding government”.
“Blaming Finance for these things is wrong, we are not the policymakers, we are not the ones, who made a choice to expand government,” Mr Muhakanizi said.
“The government priorities over the past few years have been to deal with infrastructure challenges, put money into wealth creation initiatives and finance free education. This is the reason we have not been able to fill the vacancies you are talking about,” he added.
Explaining how the government intends to fix the service delivery gaps without the necessary human resource, Mr Muhakanizi said: “I have recommended to policymakers to stop expanding government for at least five years to enable us fill the vacant positions and fix all the gaps in the service delivery chain.”
Staff gaps in other ministries
The 2017 Auditor General’s review of the approved staffing structures of seven ministries and 12 statutory enterprises revealed that the Uganda Police Force has a staffing shortage of 28,791, followed by Uganda Prison Services with 6,324 unfilled jobs, while the Judiciary has 2,864 unfilled slots. Others are Agriculture (327), Justice (177), Kampala Capital City Authority which has a staffing gap of 189, the Department of Ethics and Integrity (69), Health Service Commission (32), while the Finance ministry has 20 unfilled slots.