26 February 2013

Uganda: A Civil Service College May Be the Answer


About two weeks ago, I attended a workshop on leadership and change management organised by the civil service college of Uganda. The college has been conducting similar trainings for all the district chairpersons, RDCs, district speakers, chief administrative officers, mayors and town clerks across the country; region by region.

I must commend the team for having a very well organised and well packaged message to the district leadership. These workshops have come at the right time when we have continued to see stories in the media of in-fighting and conflicts either between politicians or politicians and civil servants in some of our districts. This has been one of the greatest challenges to service delivery, as was noted at the workshop.

I believe most of the challenges we have at the local governments are associated with some stereo-typed culture among the majority of civil servants and politicians. It has almost become the common belief that the Government should increase salaries in order to improve the performance of civil servants. It is evident some sectors, where salaries were increased, there is no direct link to improvements in neither performance nor reduced levels of corruption. Take an example of primary school teachers, the Government has increased their salary from sh150.000 to close to sh300.000, and will continue to increase. Then how come that we continue to post poor performance in most UPE schools? I know of schools in my district, where they have full staff ceiling, classrooms and some staff houses but have never posted a first grade in PLE, yet small private schools that pay much less with semi-qualified teachers are scoring in 1st and 2nd grades only.

As part of our recommendations, we agreed that we must focus more on changing our mind sets, attitudes and characters towards work, workmates and the people we serve. Until we have self-motivated leaders in districts, we will continue to see the same slow results in the general performance even if the Government doubles every ones' salary. It is on record that the public service usually employs the best of the best employees at entry level. Within a few years, majority of them are inducted into the civil service culture of "permanent and pensionable," meaning that they have no pressure to be accountable to anyone since their salaries will continue to flow for as long as they are alive. As Government, we must learn from the private sector and borrow best practices in order to cause the change that we desire.

We know that despite the low funding from the central government, some districts cannot utilise the little money meant for critical sectors like water and health in time. We have continued to see many districts returning unspent balances to the treasury even when these funds were disbursed early. Therefore, what is urgently needed is to have leaders, both political and technical, who have the capacity to inspire their followers, who can challenge the systems and can bend the law without breaking it, where necessary in order to expedite the much needed services in most Ugandan communities.

I, therefore, implore the policy makers to give all the support needed to empower and functionalise the civil service college in order to be able to have a work force that is genuinely concerned about the development of this country and reversing some of the negative trends in our society like corruption, poverty and illiteracy.

As we strive to achieve 1st class status by 2040, let us focus on how best we can have self driven and patriotic civil servants and politicians who truly care more about the needs of their constituents than how to survive and win the next election. Am personally convinced that we can achieve this but it will require a lot of sacrifice, patience and bold decision makers, who have the capacity to challenge the systems and inspire others.

Lastly, I ask the leadership of the civil service college not be like the majority of the Government institutions that have been set up to challenge the system and have ended up becoming worse than the old system. For some of us who have so far enjoyed your services, we do appreciate your package and you will continue to receive our support. I hope and pray that these trainings can extend to our parliamentarians and later to the lower local governments.

I look forward to a future where our civil servants can work five days a week and eight hours day, where we have less or no corruption in our government institutions, a day where all kids can access quality education and I dream of that day where all health units will be able to serve patients 24/7 with no women and children dying at child birth because of negligence. I cannot wait for that day when majority of our politicians will truly care for the needs of the poor and stop using woes of the poor to enrich themselves. The public has had enough of the beautiful speeches and promises, what we need as a country is focused leaders right from the LC1 chairperson that can be assessed by what we have done than what we promise to do.

The writer is the Disrtict Speaker Isingiro

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