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Speaker Among orders Public Service to protect employees in merging of agencies

Speaker of Parliament Anita Among (PHOTO /Courtesy)

The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, has directed the Minister for Public Service to withdraw a letter halting recruitment in departments and agencies based on the decision by Cabinet to rationalize government agencies.

Among said the move has suffocated institutions and they could be blamed for no work done given that they have few or no staff. She asked: “Can you commit to yourself that you are going to ensure that all institutions are operational?”

The Speaker gave the directive during plenary on Tuesday, 10 May 2022, after a presentation of a report by the Parliament Ad hoc Committee on the February 2021 Cabinet decision to rationalize government agencies.

Members of Parliament raised concern about the effect of the proposed rationalization of government agencies, urging the ministry to protect employees whose agencies have been affected.

“Government already started the process of the merger without repealing the Act and without taking care of the interest of workers. The minister should suspend the entire process until this House takes a final decision,” said Geoffrey Ekanya (FDC, Tororo North County).

Hon. Eddie Kwizera (NRM, Bukimbiri County) reiterated the call to the Minister for Public Service to retract the directive to stop appointments of Chief Executive Officers to government agencies.

“We are going to pass a budget and that budget will not have accounting officers. So, what shall we be doing?” he asked.

Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa, said the discussion on mergers has caused anxiety and uncertainty as well as impacted on staff morale in government agencies.

“If you engage any of the officers in some of these agencies established by an Act of Parliament, they are not sure of what to do especially with regard to their mandate. I hope government finds a way of addressing these issues,” said Basalirwa.

The minister, Wilson Muruli Mukasa, said a roadmap by the ministry planned that agencies whose staff contracts have expired can recruit, with the new contracts documented to end by 30 June 2023.

Among has given the minister two months within which to present a harmonized position with the recommendations contained in the committee report.

This followed Muruli Mukasa’s request for time for the Cabinet and the Ministry of Public Service to study the recommendations of the report and get an opportunity to interact with the committee.

He said this will advance harmonization so that debate on the report is made brief.

“This a substantial report and contains many recommendations that are of profound import. Some of them go to the contrary of the recommendations of Cabinet,” he said.

Hon. Sarah Opendi (NRM, Tororo District Woman MP) urged the ministry to engage some institutions that did not interact with the committee during its investigation.

“The committee was constrained by time according to their report yet some key institutions like Mulago National Referral Hospital did not interface with it. Can we allow a few of such comments so that cabinet can also study them?” Opendi said.

While presenting the committee report, the chairperson, Nathan Byanyima said the rationalization process was embarked on without a comprehensive study of the whole government machinery for service delivery.

He also said that exercise did not benefit from adequate consultation of the stakeholders, and proceeded without examining the legal and economic costs involved, and without a business continuity assurance study.

“There are risks that Uganda faces…including legal risks arising from litigation against the government, loss of investor confidence, loss of employment opportunities, loss of competitiveness of Uganda’s economy and products, loss of international markets, injury to Uganda’s image and brand and reduced service delivery,” reads the report in part.

The committee agreed with a Cabinet decision to retain 80 agencies as semi-autonomous except the Uganda Retirements Benefits Regulation Authority which it recommended be transferred to the finance ministry.

The committee also agrees with the decision to merge some agencies for efficient operations and economies of scale including electricity companies, constitutional commissions, and investment agencies among others.

Also, the committee proposed the merger of Pride Micro-Finance and Micro-finance Support Centre to form a credit bank for vulnerable and weak economic actors who cannot access the services of big commercial banks that charge high-interest rates in light of the Parish Development Model.

The committee concurred with the Cabinet’s decision to mainstream 33 agencies excluding the National Library of Uganda, Centre for Dispute Resolution, and Rural Electrification Agency.

The committee also recommended the retention of agencies in the road sector, water and environment sector, agriculture sector, and ICT sector, being mainstreamed.

“The committee calls for a cautious approach in rationalizing agencies. Poor leadership of some agencies should not be confused with the poor value of agencies in service delivery,” said Byanyima.

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