Govt delays merger of its agencies again

The Public Service ministry permanent secretary, Ms Catherine Bitarakwate. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Proponents project that the reform will result in Shs1 trillion annual savings in public expenditure. However, government critics have labelled it as bloated for political expediency. 

The government has, for the third time, extended the implementation of a plan to merge and rationalise its agencies.

Proponents project that the reform will result in Shs1 trillion annual savings in public expenditure. However, government critics have labelled it as bloated for political expediency. 

The government had set this month as the end-date for the execution of the structural changes, which comprise mergers of agencies, commissions, authorities and parastatals or their reversion to parent ministries.

However, the start date was moved to December and changes are now planned to begin on July 1, 2024, under a re-adjusted blueprint.

In a May 23 letter, the Public Service ministry permanent secretary, Ms Catherine Bitarakwate, said the extension is aimed at putting in place a legal framework to undergird the implementation of the reforms.

She added that the Cabinet has on three occasions (under minutes 237 [CT-2022], 387 [CT-2022] and 60 [CT-2023]) approved the restructuring to merge, mainstream and transfer functions of affected institutions.

“However, the approved structures cannot be implemented unless the review of the legal framework has been concluded. Currently, the review process for the legal framework that gives effect to the implementation of the new structures is still ongoing,” she wrote.

In the letter addressed to all permanent secretaries, Ms Bitarakwate directed all affected institutions to only recruit new staff in critical areas and award contracts that do not exceed June 2024.

An exception, she noted, applies to contracts awarded before February 2021 when the rationalisation process kicked off and running beyond 2024.

“All contracts should have an embedded clause providing for termination depending on the recommendations of rationalisation, without attracting any additional costs,” Ms Bitarakwate said.

She added: “During the rationalisation of agencies and public expenditure exercise (RAPEX), contracts for new appointments and renewals should be cleared in writing by the Ministry of Public Service, on the advice of the Attorney General.”

The Attorney General said the Ministry of Public Service is being cautious to insulate itself and the government against possible litigation triggered by intended reforms that will lead to job losses, grade and pay changes.

The process of restructuring government agencies started in July 2017 when President Museveni, in a letter, directed then Vice President Edward Ssekandi, and Prime Minister Rukahana Rugunda to develop a blueprint to eliminate duplication and wastage in public service.

However, the plan has faced resistance from staff and leaders of affected agencies, with many resorting to lobbying Parliament, the President and ministers to maintain the status quo. 

A blueprint was developed, reviewing 157 agencies, of which 80 agencies were to remain as semi-autonomous agencies, 33 agencies were to revert under their line ministries while 35 agencies were to be consolidated and merged into 19 entities.

By 2019, the government had paused the rationalisation process after realising that a number of agencies were created by Acts of Parliament or international instruments and scrapping them would require repealing some laws while others had debts and abrupt mergers would attract litigation against the government.

A new implementation roadmap, which Cabinet approved on February 22, 2021, revised the mergers and rationalisations to run from 2021/2022 and 2022/2023, which was later adjusted to December.

The public service provided guidance on the modalities of managing government institutions during the implementation period in two different letters dated April 19 and August 23.

It included freezing the creation of all new structures, new appointments and filling of vacant positions in all affected institutions.

The rules also banned all affected institutions from awarding contracts that run beyond this month and obliged them to seek guidance from the ministry on issues regarding the transition process to avoid the creation of unnecessary costs to the government.

It remained unclear what the impact of the deferral of reform implementation would be on agencies such as the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), which has since been re-hatted under the Energy ministry based on initial rationalisation timeline.

The move caused conflicts over job safety as the fate of up to 178 permanent employees and short-term contractors hang in balance.

In this proposal, big-budget holder Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) is to revert back to the Ministry of Works the same way National Identification Registration Authority (Nira) is re-hatted under Internal Affairs ministry.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (Uwa) and Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (Uwec) are to be merged into one entity. A similar fate awaits Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).


July 2017: President Museveni directs then Vice President Edward Ssekandi and Prime Ruhakana Rugunda to develop a blueprint to eliminate duplication and wastage in public service.

2018: Blueprint developed, but implementation paused pending a master plan.

February 22, 2021: Cabinet approves merger and rationalisation of agencies.

February 22, 2021: Cabinet endorses implementation from 2021/2022 to 2022/2023 financial years, but later defers it to December 2023.

April 19 and August 23, 2021: Public Service ministry releases guidelines on merger modalities, and Cabinet separately approves the transfer of the Rural Electrification Agency (Rea) to the parent Energy ministry.

April 19, 2022: An ad-hoc parliamentary committee recommends that government expedites the merger and rationalisation.

May 10, 2022: Parliament Speaker Anita Among citing paralysis to operations of designated agencies, tasks government to reverse the directive to freeze hiring new staff.

November 25, 2022: Public Service Minister Muruli Mukasa releases the final merger list.

June 23: The government extends the implementation of the merger to July 2024.