The proposal to downsize Uganda’s civil service has drawn mixed reactions among residents and leaders in Kabale district, western Uganda. While welcomed by a number of citizens as ideal, area leaders believe that the proposal is farfetched and misdirected.
The debate follows a directive by President Yoweri Museveni for the assessment of the public service with a view of downsizing and reducing the wage bill.
We have learnt that prior to the directive; Permanent Secretaries had submitted a request for a pay rise stating that the current payment of 3 million Shillings is insufficient.
But President Museveni rejected the request by the accounting officers saying that Uganda’s wage bill needs to be reduced.
The President subsequently tasked former Finance minister Dr Ezra Suruma to lead a study on the bloated public service and associated wage bill and recommend appropriate actions for the government to take and One of the solutions the president proposed, according to a source that attended the Cabinet retreat that ended in Kyankwanzi, is to reduce the number of civil servants.
Byamugisha Robert Kakuru, the Executive Director for Kick Corruption out of Kigezi, a regional advocacy network based in Kabale says that the idea contradicts president Museveni’s earlier commitment to transform Uganda into a middle income status country.
Byamugisha says that reducing civil servants should be done in line with the numbers they serve.
Rev. Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda, the chairperson of Kigezi Inter-Religious Council questions the motive in reducing the number of public servants amid a reported shortage of manpower in government institutions.
Fr Batanyenda says that Uganda needs to control the creation of new administrative units.
Kabale Municipality Secretary for Works, Ronald Hakizimana Bifabusha suggests that downsizing should start with presidential advisors and Resident District Commissioners.
President Museveni has over 140 presidential advisors and maintains a Resident District Commissioner and an assistant in each of the 116 districts across the country.
Bifabusha, the Councillor representing Lower Bugongi says that presidential advisors are a burden to the taxpayer.
Edison Turyahabwa a resident of Kabale welcomes the proposed reduction saying that Uganda needs to make its wage bill sustainable by cleaning up the mess in the civil service. He invites those against the proposal to review the amount of money spent on public servants against the services provided.
James Kato, a member of the National Resistance Movement-NRM party in Kabale southern division, says that the proposal should excite all Ugandans.
Uganda last undertook a massive retrenchment in 1992 as part of the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). Last month, about 5,000 civil servants were deleted from the payroll as part of a cleanup exercise undertaken by the Ministry of Public Service.
The Ministry’s record indicates that the country currently has about 300,000 employed personnel and another 10,830 awaiting validation.