10 June 2014

Uganda: Salary Mess - Who Is to Blame?

Photo: Amy Fallon/IPS
Thousands of government employees go without pay for months (file photo).

The finger of blame for the chronic salary delays in public service should be pointed at the ministries of Finance and Public Service, chief administrative officers recently told Parliament.

This accusation comes a fortnight after Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka and Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi told Parliament separately that CAOs were to blame for the delays because they did not submit their payroll requisitions in time. CAOs from the districts of Wakiso, Tororo, Kasese, Mbarara, Bushenyi, and Kabale, used their appearance before the select committee investigating salary delays in Public Service to make their case against the two ministries.

"I want to state that in the management of the payroll, districts play a supportive role, because they do not initiate the process, it is the ministry of Public Service" said Kasese CAO William Kasirye.

"We (Kasese) submitted 2000 health workers, but they disappeared on the payroll. We don't know why and we are not aware of who is responsible for those changes. And there is a tendency of changing titles of civil servants because if you submit him/her as a chairperson of the district, someone somewhere changes that title to a driver, that one doesn't get paid."

His colleagues from Tororo and Wakiso were fierce in their criticism of the line ministries.

"We are not the ones responsible for the payroll, but I feel hurt by the blame game by the ministry of Public Service and Finance... Finance for example admitted that it had insufficient funds to pay salaries for March and April," Tororo district CAO Oswan Vitalis said, reading the circular he got from the ministry of Finance.

"The ministry of Public Service issued a circular on 9/05/2014 to inform accounting officers that some local government staff did not receive salaries in March, April due to insufficient funds and that they were working out re-allocations to ensure that outstanding salaries are paid as soon as possible," he said.

Wakiso's David Naluwayiro said, "We are demoralised because we are ever called thieves without any platform like this to express our challenges as far as delayed payments are concerned."

"We are not the ones responsible for the delays... we don't initiate the payroll, the ministry of public service does, the only role we have is to cross-check to see whether they are the genuine civil servants on the roll and they are supposed to send us the draft payroll on the 15th day of the paying month, but we didn't get that draft payroll until I wrote to the PS of public service on May 22 to remind her that we have not received that draft payroll of May," he said, adding that "The ministries of Finance and Public Service are overwhelmed by the new system, but they don't want to tell the truth and choose to blame us."

The CAOs said the recent delays were ignited by the ongoing exercise of migrating all the names of civil servants from the defunct legacy to IPPS, which they contend was introduced in a hurried manner.

Appearing before the same committee on May 28, Keto Nyapendi Kayemba, the assistant auditor general, attributed the salary delays to "delays in enrollment of new civil servants on to the payroll" which results into arrears. She blamed both the accounting officers and the ministry of Public Service.

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