By Joan Akello
Corruption on payroll exposed
Auditor General expected to submit a 100% clean payroll by Aug.30
President Yoweri Museveni’s spokesperson, , is loud, pompous, and said to be quite wealthy. So when a list of salaries of civil servants who work directly under the president in State House started circulating recently, many readers scrolled it looking to see what his monthly take home is. Unfortunately, although State House has issued various `official lists’ of its salaries, it is still not clear what Mirundi, or any other worker under the President’s Office actually ears.
“This has opened our eyes to investigate how much each staff is earning even in the classified expenditure,” says Dokolo District Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal, who first brought the matter to the attention of parliament.
This was the first time the office of the President’s office was submitting its ministerial policy statement with a full list of its staff and their salaries. However, with the highest earning Shs 96 million, the list has attracted scrutiny and calls for reforms in public service payroll.
Cecilia Ogwal, who is also the opposition Chief Whip told The Independent: “ I am not looking at who or what region is on that list but, from a national perspective, we have to investigate why State House is always demanding a lot of money yet many other civil servants are wallowing in poverty while others are sailing in money.”
But so far, the only outcome has been confusion.
The first “official list” the government published showed that Tamale Mirundi earns Shs96 million per month. This is what Cecilia Ogwal presented to parliament. It was quickly refuted by State House which issued another `official list” which showed that Tamale Mirundi earns a paltry Shs820, 556. But then, says Cecilia Ogwal, when Tamale Mirundi was asked, he says he earns Shs7 million.
Many observers say the official salaries released by State House are not believable because individuals who work directly under Museveni are among the wealthiest Ugandans. The live is palatial homes, own fleets of cars and other assets, and spend like drunken sailors.
Cecilia Ogwal raised the issue of the State House payroll in parliament on July 8.The Presidential Press Unit (PPU) says Ogwal and other legislators who shared the list deliberately ignored a correction that had been made in order to gain political scores.
“Hon Ogwal knew that this correction had been made but chose to only dramatize it to make a political point,” said Minister for Presidency, Frank Tumwebaze, who signed off the controversial salaries.
But Ogwal told The Independent that Tumwebaze and PPU “were just trying to defend themselves”. She wonders why none of the 150 MPs who attended plenary challenged her presentation if they had the correction.
Salary reforms expected
Whatever the true salaries of State House official are, Ogwal says the confusion over them highlights the need to scrutinise the public service payroll which has been a subject of debate in parliament since the year begun. It started with complaints over delayed payment of salaries and the list from State House just highlights the discrepancies where some are under paid while others are overpaid or not even on the payroll.
In June, a Select Committee of Parliament had recommended that the Ministry of Public Service becomes a directorate under the Office of the President with regional centres to capture the biometric data of all new civil servants.
The lack of biometric data for civil servants and national identity card database, and poor identification of employees, has resulted into cases of duplicate names on the payroll, forgery and proliferation of ghosts.
The government is also going back to the multi-spine (decentralized) system so that accounting officers can be held responsible for data.
Payroll decentralisation started in January and has covered referral hospitals, Bushenyi, Wakiso, public universities, police, prisons, and Kampala Capital City Authority. The process is expected to cover 72 higher local governments.
The Auditor General is also expected to submit a 100 percent cleaned up payroll by Aug.30.
The government is supposed to implement “a pay as we see you” policy, based availability at work a through clock in registers. The cabinet is discussing a proposal from the ministry of Public Service on the establishment of a Salaries Review Commission (SRC).
The SRC will determine, harmonise and review salaries for public service and all those who get salaries from the Consolidated Fund including State House.
56-year old Emmanuel Ngerangeze, a math teacher at Kololo Secondary school who has been teaching since 1986 is hopeful.
“Some fresh graduates or those who have not taught for more than two years earn more than me,” he complains.
The ministry of Finance is also migrating data to a newer system called the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS). So far this has resulted in errors partly blamed for the nonpayment, delayed payment, over payment, and underpayment of salaries. Rolling out the IPPS requires an estimated Shs23 billion. The parliamentary committee wants the IPPS completed by end of July to enable automatic data transfer and linkages with other databases including the National ID, and Uganda Revenue Authority.
The incomplete IPPS is being blamed for the unexplained deletions from the payroll and exposed the existence of phantom or “ghost” employees on the payroll. About 52 workers, not bona fide employees were found on the payroll of Kasese in May, amounting to Shs31 million paid to ghost workers every month in that district alone. The question is, `who has been eating this money?’
In any case, it appears now that putting trust in President’s Office to manage salaries could lead to more chaos.
State House special?
Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze Bakireke who sits on the Parliamentary Committee on Public Service and Local government says although most employees in the president’s office are under the traditional public service cluster, their salary scale is unique and quite different from that of other traditional public servants including teachers, health workers.
She says, in fact, it is some of the disgruntled staff at State House who notified her of the list because of the variance in the amounts paid, recruitment process and numbers. Workers in the same salary scale earn differently.
When the first list was published, Sarah Kagingo, a newly recruited Presidential Special Communications Assistant was graded under U1S and said to earn Shs 2,260,140 per month.
Tamale Mirundi who is senior earns Shs 820,556 while the Deputy Press Secretary, Lindah Nabusayi, in the same scale as Mirundi earns Shs 659,174 per month. But another employee under the same U3, Kyobutungi Sheba, code 1745, earns Shs6 million.
Such discrepancies, Ogwal and Nambooze say, are what a Parliamentary Select Committee’S Report on Delayed Salaries to Civil Servants noted. It was released in June.
The committee was set up following a report the Sessional Committee on Public Service and Local government released in April on salary anomalies.
The Select committee with Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi as chairman, Oyam MP Santa Alum Ogwang, Cadet Benjamin, Rukiga County – Kabale District MP Jack Sabiiti and Kawempe North MP Ssebagala A.Lateef Sengendo as members reviewed the Sessional Committee’s recommendations and submitted its report to parliament in June.
It cited underpayment, overpayment, non-payment, unexplained deletions or inclusions of ghost workers on the payroll over. It said these were cause by incompetence, lack of integrity, understaffing, untrained staff, accumulated backlog, and corruption tendencies among staff.
The committee noted that as a result, these challenges have led to a demoralised public service force, inefficiency, absenteeism and desertions.
It noted that teachers and health workers are the most affected category of public servants with about 4,900 and 1,378 cases respectively of unpaid salaries of the 11,772 cases sampled.
It is not clear how many civil servants Uganda employs. The Sessional Committee on Public Service and Local Government noted about 380,000 public servants. That would be a 150% leap from about 150,000 in 1995 and a 90% leap from 198,000 by end of 2001.
But a Special audit of the government of Uganda salaries and wages 2011/2012 by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) on behalf of the Auditor general, found about 68,725 traditional civil servants in the payroll in June 2011.
It reported that State House as of June 2011 had 668 employees, Police had 36,534, prisons 6,557, Makerere University 3,979, Mulago Hospital Complex 1, 883, Judiciary 1,356, Ministry of Education and Sports 1,043 and Uganda National Roads Authority had 954 employees.
The select committee found that neither the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFPED) nor the Ministry of Public Service (MoPS) and sector ministries know the actual number of civil servants. They blame this for causing the unpredictability of the wage bill.
“For instance, the Ministry of Health did not know the number of health workers, the ministry of Education and Sports did not know the number of teachers, and the ministry of Internal Affairs did not know the number of police officers. They only use estimate figures to budget for the Wage bill,” part of the report reads.
Jim Mugunga, the ministry of Finance spokesperson confirmed that the ministry has been appropriating money to votes with a wage bill based on estimates.
Jane Kyarisiima, the Commissioner Human Resource Management in the Public Service Ministry said this is worsened by the fact that most government departments are by law mandated to determine their own salaries. This makes it difficult to predict their wage bill during budgeting.
Then, the committee noted, there is the issue of wage bill surpluses and deficits and the accompanying endless supplementary budget requests.
There are also Accounting Officers who request the treasury to reallocate wage funds to cover non-wage activities. In May this year, Uganda Police Headquarters requested for the reallocation of Shs5.5billion meant for wages to finance the construction of a camp in Bujagali and the ministry of Local Government requested reallocation of Shs700million for wages to finance rent and Commonwealth conference debts on May 13.
All these make the Uganda government wage bill unpredictable.
In Kenya, by contrast, the Public Service Commission can predict the Wage bill within a 5% percent margin of error for 5 years and 5% percent margin of error over a period of 15 years. In Rwanda it can be predicted with a 3% margin of error for 5 years. Rwanda uses the IPSS.
Since 2010, the ministry of Finance has had salary arrears of Shs33billion, according to the Permanent Secretary /Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakinizi. He says ministry has funds to clear all the outstanding arrears as long as they are verified and directed accounting officers to submit documents.
Those for Universal Primary Education (UPE) and post Primary institutions must submit by July 31 without fail.