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Gov’t forensic scientists leaving for better paying jobs – Minister

State Minister for Internal Affairs Obiga Kania before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. PHOTO via parliament Ug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The State Minister for Internal Affairs Obiga Kania has said that forensic scientists are leaving the country due to low pay in Uganda and there is a high global demand for their rare skills.

Kania was before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee which invited him as the political head overseeing the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory (DGAL).

Members of Parliament sitting on PAC are concerned about issues relating to under-staffing and high turnover at the Directorate.

The Minister revealed that owing to low salaries and failure by government to enhance pay a number of forensic experts have left for greener pastures. He observed that the phased salary enhancement of scientists across the public service has not been fully implemented.

According to a document presented to PAC by DGAL Director Kepher Kuchana, they have noted the exit of 20 experts over the last few years. The experts were in positions of Principal Government Analyst, Senior Government Analyst, Senior Laboratory Technician, Government Analyst, Laboratory Assistant and others.

Kuchana noted that out of the approved structure of 124 positions only 50 are filled and 74 not filled. He says that the Directorate needs 1.24 billion Shillings to fill the approved human resource structure.

“The regional laboratories are grossly understaffed and this affects the laboratory analysis and exhibit collection at the regional laboratories. Positions which were cleared by the Ministry of Public Service were submitted to Public Service Commission for recruitment and the process is ongoing,” said Kuchana.

MPs were disturbed by the revelation that 2 of the regional laboratories in Mbarara and Moroto are manned by only one person each at the level of office attendant. The Mbale laboratory has two personnel. Upon interrogation, Kuchana admitted that all they do is receive and store samples.

Masaka municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga was particularly irked by the potential contamination of exhibits owing to poor handling by office attendants. But Kuchana assured him that samples and exhibits are handled by scene of crime police officers as well as Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Directorate (CIID) officers who have received the necessary training.

On interventions to retain their staff, Kuchanda told PAC that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had in 2017 written to the Public Service Ministry requesting for 8.3 billion Shillings to enhance salaries so as to motivate staff at the Directorate but to date only 572 million has been provided.

“There is a shortfall of 7.81 billion for enhancement of the scientist’s wages to be fully achieved in line with the President’s Directive of 16th September 2016. The enhancement of the scientists emoluments should be effected so as to reduce the issue of turnover at DGAL,” Kuchana appealed.

Mpuuga, who chaired the session was however concerned about the fact that procurement and installation of equipment had been done before a thorough recruitment process had been completed. He noted that before any salary enhancements are done the directorate should ensure that proper recruitment is done demanding for a recruitment plan from the directorate.

The Human resource Director in the Ministry of Internal Affairs Proscovia Babirye told the committee that the directorate had a three year recruitment plan to fill all positions if 300 million is availed every year.

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