Fighting corruption and finally weeding it out is the biggest war in Uganda today. Everything must be done until all the corrupt lose appetite for it.
Much of the corruption manifests in the districts and thrives with the collusion of “permanent and pensionable” Local Government staff. Technocrats, assured of job security and privileged to spend limitless tenures in districts of posting are able to form a complicated corrupt web which they use to swindle Government money.
Technocrats have proven to be detached from the ground; they sit in office all day waiting for deals and anybody seeking services from whom they can extort bribes. Despite the best intentions of the leadership to steer Uganda to greatness, such technocrats are a burden on collective national progress. They have this impression that being non-partisan and not being politicians means being actively defiant in service against Government policy objectives.
It is much worse in regard to President Museveni; his well-articulated policies for transformation and effective service delivery mean little or nothing to technocrats assured of a stable source of income, with fixed terms no matter the state of the economy and the plight of the masses. All they stand for is how to earn more from Government coffers and this is the bedrock of corruption.
How they work is that they starve members of the public of services and information about services until the people tire and become desperate, then they squeeze them for bribes. They make Government services look like a privilege that people must pay for even if they already pay taxes to fund those services. That is how patients come to be charged at Government hospitals, for example.
Nothing makes me sick like a Government worker being so bent on being corrupt that they throw all caution and professionalism to the wind, while acting so confident like they own Uganda. Where the good ones exercise restraint in their duties to avoid making mistakes, the corrupt are so confident and diligent that they make everybody look bad.
The bad apples create “impunity rings” in which they use the decentralisation cover to set their own rules and run Government service aground. You find them doing their own things, as if they operate in a different country not managed by the Central Government.
It is why when the State Minister for Economic Monitoring, Hon. Peter Ogwang, went around the country, he unearthed a regime of flagrant abuse of Government resources and systems. You wouldn’t believe that the errant were our own. You find someone doing unbelievable things on the assumption that they have so much power and cannot be questioned.
Heads of Department like District Education Officers (DEOs), Chief Finance Officers (CFOs), District Engineers, District Health Officers (DHOs), District Planners, enjoy broad powers to an extent that working together, they can frustrate operations of the units. They control budgets. They are supervised by LC 5 chairpersons who tend to have personal political interests. Then there are weak Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) who cannot make decisions and who get “commissions” from these HODs and fail to hold them accountable.
It’s RDCs saving the situation, since they are managed by the center and with very strict guidelines of service. It would be much worse if CAOs were appointed at the districts. District Service Commissions (DSCs) are not helping matters. There is reason to believe that jobs are given under wrong influence and after, the Commission has no role in following up their recruits to ascertain how they fare in service.
It’s my preferred opinion that the Central Government recalls powers to appoint, transfer and fire district Local Government staff. Those are HODS. Districts should only recruit Sub-County staff, and lower. These powers can always be granted back when the public regains trust in the Local Governments.
The other safeguard is to put workers on contracts, which are only renewed, let us say, every three years, subject to performance.
Here, “performance audit”, which is President Museveni’s preferred method for checking every Government worker’s efficiency and contribution to service delivery, would apply. In today’s standing, “permanent and pensionable” workers benefit from absence of standardised performance reviews; they are not given work targets or expected deliverables by which they can be examined. The less work they do as they await their regular pay cheque until they clock retirement age, the better for them.
Uganda Government is the most generous Government in the world, I must say. There are people earning for doing less work, because of absence of an apparent system of rewarding mediocrity, thus making a few committed patriots in service do the donkey work. People are qualified, some very highly, but they lack the spirit of Ubuntu and patriotism but hold positions in civil service where they are remunerated for just sitting and swinging in their chairs. All the responsibility for implementing policy ideas is pushed back to the center which is heavy with management of national affairs. This kills the essence of decentralisation, devolution of powers and “popular” creation of lower administrative units which were meant to ease decision-making and facilitate faster implementation of policy and service delivery.
The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary
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