Public servants not paid since October
Some public servants including those in sensitive departments like the Police, Health, Water and Education have gone up to four months without pay, raising concerns about a further deterioration in the quality of service as well as increase in corruption and crime.
Speaking to The Sunrise anonymously, some prisons officers expressed untold suffering they are enduring as they try to make ends meet without pay yet they are expected to report to work everyday.
The Spokesperson of Uganda Prisons Service Frank Baine confirmed that salaries have delayed but added that this should not alarm anyone. He however argued that irregular salary payments have become common since the Kazinda saga.
Not being able to pay workers, including armed forces such as Police and Prisons, for such a long time, must be a national issue, according to Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze.
Nambooze said she has received reports from health workers as well as teachers in her constituency that they have not received their salaries since October.
She said: “It is sad that we have come to a point when a country is unable to pay its employees,” She called the situation a crisis that will deepen poverty in the country as suppliers cannot get paid for their goods and services while also demand for goods continues to disappear as would be buyers languish in poverty.
She said: “It is not surprising that crimes like armed robbery and corruption have become rampant these days. What health workers these days do is to report at their stations to work on their patients, and you cannot blame them because how will they survive?”
Nambooze said that she and colleagues in Parliament are anxiously waiting for February 18 for Parliament to resume so that they can put government to task over the matter.
“We are praying for February 18 to come because we shall not accept to discuss any other thing before public servants are paid,” Nambooze said.
She attacked her colleagues from the ruling NRM party who have been meeting in Kyankwanzi for hood-winking Ugandans with President Museveni’s 2016 bid support two years before elections.
She said: “They [NRM caucus] had nothing to tell the country amidst the mountain of problems we are going through. That is why they cooked this Museveni 2016 bid intentionally to divert the public from debating more serious issues.”
The new Leader of Opposition in Parliament Wafula Ogutu told The Sunrise in a telephone interview that whereas it had become a trend over the past few years for government to skip months without paying its workers, the current situation is worrying because of the meagre tax collections versus the demands for money.
“It is a financial crisis because if you have a deficit [in revenue collection] that is as big as Ushs 300bn in one quarter, coupled with demands for financing foreign wars, you cannot be able to pay salaries,”said Ogutu
Ogutu blamed Uganda’s financial problems on the unplanned deployment of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in South Sudan which he said is costing the treasury billions of money every day.
His colleague, the Kawempe South MP Ssebuliba Mutumba Mudduawulira argued that the unfavourable financial situation is unlike to end soon because of the numerous foreign wars including in Somalia, DR. Congo, Central African Republic, the government has gotten itself entangled with.
“You can not afford to pay salaries when you put money in non priority areas like wars and a large public administration,” Ssebuliba cited the latest report by the National Planning Authority (NPA) as another sign of a ticking time bomb about Uganda’s economy.
Ssebuliba said: “The latest NPA report shows that Uganda’s population below 14 years is 49.9% while that between 15-64 years is 48%. This means that at least half of the population is dependent while majority of those that are able to work – the youth are unemployed.”
Ssebuliba argues that without productive employment, it’s not surprising that government is unable to collect taxes.
“Public servants will continue to go without salaries, jiggers will spread and people will continue to go to bed hungry if we continue to have a government that cannot invest in priority sectors such as agriculture that supports majority of the people,” said Ssebuliba.