What you need to know:
- CDO has a nice well-maintained building in Nakasero. The mega bill is notable more for what it did not accomplish. First, its goal of reducing the overall size of government, the bill only achieves about Shs1 trillion in cost-cuts, in payroll and administrative costs.
Early this week, the government published a 165-page bill, with 845 clauses, to rationalise its operations. It abolished a number of agencies, big and small, mainstreaming them into government ministries. The axe fell big and wide.
Top on the list was UNRA, the highway agency, UCDA, the coffee development body, NFA, the Forestry Body, and NITA, the information and communications infrastructure arm of government. Smaller chops included the Uganda Wildlife Creation Center or Entebbe Zoo, a small wonder of Uganda replete with big and small animals folded into the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Some innocuous bodies like the Trypanosomiasis Council, the Cotton Development Board saw the axe fall leaving prime real estate up for grabs.
CDO has a nice well-maintained building in Nakasero. The mega bill is notable more for what it did not accomplish. First, its goal of reducing the overall size of government, the bill only achieves about Shs1 trillion in cost-cuts, in payroll and administrative costs.
Deeper cuts are expected in rationalization of government ministries, where cabinet departments are expected to lose some layers of management altogether, abolishing the rank of Director in many ministries and replacing it with a technical head at the rank of Commissioner.
This process began in 2008 with a survey of 15 government agencies and has continued limping on to this day. Approaching the fiscal cliff, Uganda has taken a big step to retrench first before failing to meet payroll.
A prior column showed how intermittent government payroll has been in calendar year 2023, not even once, hitting civil servant’s bank accounts by the 22/23 of each month promised by now departed Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi in 1998.
At the heart of government, more mergers could create more utility, by reducing the size of cabinet, the size of Parliament etc.
Some ministries ideally should return to their mother ministries; Trade, Tourism and utilize similar resources. The Ministry of ICT could merge with an urgently needed Ministry of Manpower Development to address unemployment.
With a Special Interest Groups Secretariat, the Ministry of Culture and Social Affairs could absorb the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness.
At the helm of government, a number of functions could be rationalised without causing more duplication, the Office of the Prime Minister, could absorb the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and East African Affairs.
The small ineffective fiefdoms, Bunyoro, Teso, Luweero, Northern Uganda could become administrative bureaus in the Office of the President. Presidency, better run in recent times, has the capacity to coordinate functions with the Ministry of Public Service and Cabinet Affairs. In any case, it is not well understood that the Minister of Public Service essentially represents the President in the hiring and firing of Civil Servants.
New reforms will allow Uganda to focus on its core problem, the political system; and the sharing of political power. How much of government functions are effectively being administered from the center? For example, should early childhood education and special education be a responsibility of the Ministry of Education. Another example, how should communities handle the problem of drugs and narcotics that are reflecting in crime statistics? How do you plan for the young population? Most of them sneer at the ministerial motorcades because they lack any connection to government processes until they need to go to the LC 1 Chairperson for a stamp or a letter and he asks for Shs20,000 without reference to any legal document or power.
The political system’s long life, and treads have relied on power fragmentation to the extent that in a Social Studies quiz, if you asked for the Chairman of Bushenyi District you will get wrong answers everywhere. Creating so many positions is good politics, it reduces the pressure to act, as the government was forced to bring a knife to its throat to rationalise its size.
Mr Karoli Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate. [email protected]