Public servants need more than salary raise

What you need to know:

A thorough examination of the entire fabric of the public service reveals many ills that have made it difficult for government employees to deliver as expected

The current concerns over salary, its inadequacy and the disparities that surround the enhancement process may make one believe that it’s the only problem bogging down public service delivery.

 A thorough examination of the entire fabric of the public service reveals many ills that have made it difficult for government employees to deliver as expected.

 Although there are established procedures, requirements and qualifications that govern recruitment of personnel, several reports have indicated that these are never followed to the letter.

 The process is marred by corruption, exhibited in bribery, nepotism, tribalism and political patronage. This leads to several ills that trickle down into service delivery in form of either employment of people with low capacity or incapacitating would-be effective workers with financial debts or undue influence.

No wonder, many public servants have often engaged in embezzlement of funds meant for service delivery, many are doing it with impunity as they enjoy political protection. Government, especially at the local level, doesn’t have well streamlined capacity building programmes that could enhance the ability of workers in delivering services within the ever-changing working environment.

Although the government is adopting new technology and introducing new development programmes meant to enhance service delivery, most of its workers are left behind, with limited knowledge and skills to effectively participate in steering the changes!

 Two examples can suffice to explain this: Many civil servants haven’t comprehended the shift from the sector to programme approach introduced by the Third National Development Plan (NDPIII).

Many were greatly troubled during the formulation of District Development Plans and budgets, trying to align them to the NDPIII. They just worked on a trial-and-error basis. Implementation of the same has not been grounded, yet the plan has been in force for two financial years!

The current saga surrounding the sacking of chief administrative officers over their failure to submit in time their district budgets also stems from lack of capacity.

 The inability of many civil servants, even at the level of Head of Department, to effectively use new technology and technological systems has greatly incapacitated service delivery. Much as the central government is embracing ICT in its operations, little effort has been put into training its staff at all levels to make them compliant.

The Programme Budgeting Tool, to which the Ministry of Finance keeps on making changes, has made life difficult for many at the district level to the extent that much of the work is virtually  left to the District Planners. These are just examples of government failures stemming from lack of capacity on the side of civil servants.  Public servants require a conducive environment, adequate resources and efficient tools for them to effectively deliver on their mandate.

 Just consider schools from where the government wishes to promote sciences as a tool for development. Although science teachers are set to enjoy a huge salary, there are no functional science laboratories in most schools where they operate from. Government recruited more school inspectors to enhance support supervision but these have no transport means.

Sub-counties, mandated with delivery of Primary Education and Primary Healthcare as well as local economic development initiatives, services that touch the core of the daily and future lives of the citizens, are the worst staffed and facilitated.

 The lack of a stable and adequate supply of essential drugs continues to incapacitate health centres. The list is also inexhaustible.  Noted as the second, of the 10 challenges to Uganda’s development in the Vision2040 document, this remains a major factor requiring urgent action. Prominent among the aspects within this broad area are the weak institutional structures and systems, weak civil society and civic participation as well as inadequate data and information.

 Although we have an elaborate policy regime, implementation has been made very difficult by inadequacies in both political and civil service leadership.

 It has become a dilemma for one to make a choice between doing things right / the right thing or remaining politically right. With politics taking precedence, as noted above, many have chosen the latter. This has eroded the dignity and morale of civil servants, with many becoming stooges of political leaders. Most oversight institutions have also fallen victims of either corruption or undue political interference.

 All in all, much as prominence has been given to salary enhancement, it’s not going to be a panacea to the ills that have made the public service unable to deliver on its avowed mandate. 

Mathias Kigoye,  Senior Inspector of Schools Kyotera.

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