69 Ministers, 327 Members of Parliament, 278 political appointees who include 80 resident District Commissioners and assistants, 75 presidential advisors and 43 private presidential secretaries and their deputies is just a picture of Uganda’s public administration. Pearl of Africa as commonly known is argued that not only is it a sleeping giant but an over governed and unproductive country.
It has many administrative units; 45,000 local councils, 5500 parishes, 1026 sub-counties, 151 counties, 18 municipalities and 80 districts. All these structures have executive 10 man executive officials. So, the total number of officials is 10 times the number of every administrative unit.
How does this nation manage its servants? Uganda’s expenditure is very enormous and abnormal.
A presidential advisor and his deputy earn 908.5 million Ugandan shillings enough to pay 378 primary school teachers a salary of 200,000 Ugandan shillings a month. Private presidential secretary and his assistant earn 7.5 billion shillings enough to; support 2,077 primary schools with 800 pupils each, buy drugs for 890 health centers, construct 935 classrooms or pay 37,500 primary school teachers. Members of Parliament altogether earn 57 billion excluding the allowances, the 69 ministers have all sorts of allowances and only government expenditure on Ministers vehicles fuel, oil and maintenance in 2006/07 was 92 billion Ugandan shillings.
In 1986, the National Resistance Movement came to power, it collected 84 billion as revenue. Inflation was at 240 percent, it worked tirelessly and revived the economy reducing inflation to 0.3 percent. The present government collects 4 trillion as revenue but sectors like education and health and education which used to be vibrant are in shambles.
The nation has 31 million people, according to the ministry of health, there’s one doctor to every 300,000 people. Surprisingly, there’s one administrative leader to every 6 Ugandan. The nation has poor administrative structures, poor administration and provides poor services to its citizens. The government makes good policies but it’s very hard for them to be implemented leading all these deficiencies.
Policies like: decentralization policy to help distribute resources evenly; minimum health package which puts all health centers under a structured organization; Medium Term Expenditure Framework that makes the government budget and expenditure known after every 3 years. Such good and efficient policies have been made by the government but 600 billion Ugandan shillings is lost every year.
The main reason why such policies cannot be implemented is due to the government’s huge expenditure to its top leaders and poor wages paid to its civil servants. This has led to absenteeism, lack of morale as the public servants do other jobs beside their jobs to supplement their earnings.
It’s arguably that the nation has produced one of the brightest people in the East Africa region with the prestigious Makerere University but has the lowest productivity in the region. This is because Ugandans are juggling too many sources of income hence cannot specialize and put all their effort in one to enable them get sufficient income.
The country also has a culture of passing laws to solve problems, this has led to it having too many laws and continuing to pass others yet the ones present are neither effective nor implementable. For instance, it has failed to implement the traffic and productive law yet it has passed a law to gag the media, limiting public participation in governance and locking up journalists with dissenting views.
Pundits say that for the country to develop, it needs to reduce its administrative leaders, get more serious in enforcing its policies and laws. The administration is the main cause of the government’s huge expenditure, leading to lack of funds in other sectors and poverty. The country needs to be serious in economic transformation and development by getting its priorities right.
Civil society, donors, private sector experts and political analysts have raised numerous concerns over the governments expenditure on its administration but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The country not only needs a budget discipline but get their priorities right.
By Oscar Otindo
The writer is a Kenyan volunteer and activist based in Nairobi, Kenya.