For decades, Uganda has experienced the problem of lack of standards in salaries and allowances paid to public sector employees, with some people paid very highly and others underpaid.
While heads of public institutions such as Uganda Revenue Authority, Kampala Capital City Authority, National Water and Uganda National Roads Authority, among others, earn at least Shs 30m per month, judges, including the Chief Justice, and even the Inspector General of Government, don't earn even half that amount.
It is worse with Members of Parliament because the law allows them to set their own salaries, which ensures that the first thing every new Parliament does is to raise their pay, oblivious of the economic situation in the country. Meanwhile, doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and soldiers, among others, are left at the mercy of God as their sorry remuneration can't even fund their children's education.
Admittedly, this is not a Ugandan problem per se, but some countries have devised solutions that we can emulate. One of these is our neighbour Kenya. Through their Salaries and Remuneration Commission, one of the institutions formed by the new constitution, Kenyans have established a very clear mechanism of setting salaries for public sector workers.
Just last week, the new commission released its first proposals wherein the salaries of both their in-coming president and MPs, among other officials, are to be reduced substantially.
Until now, Kenyan MPs, like their Ugandan colleagues, had the prerogative of setting their salaries, a provision they abused and in the process gained a bad reputation as some of the greediest MPs on the African continent. With the new commission in place, their wild appetite can now be tamed.
Uganda would do well to set up its own salaries and remuneration commission or an equivalent. Not only would it provide a more just and equitable system, it would also create standards to avoid a situation where a KCCA driver earns more than a Permanent Secretary.
The bottom line is that a country's salary scale must not only be fair but also keep pace with its economic performance or else public sector officials become a burden on the taxpayer and the economy bleeds.