Illustration Credit : Micheal Czinkota
Uganda has over the last few years had a number of remuneration related complaints and strikes. Medical practitioners continue to exit the country as they look for greener pastures, whereas teachers on several occasions, laid down their tools as a result of poor pay. Public university dons and non-teaching staff thereto are not excluded from the list of those desirous of better pay. The directorate of Public prosecutions has reportedly not had a salary review since the mid-1990s.
In the recently passed budget, Members of Parliament sought to exonerate themselves from taxes on their allowances. Some went on record to aver that they would not pass the budget if the president declined to heed to their position on the tax. In other words, better pay!
In that respect, how Parliament did not get the wisdom in the Constitutional (amendment) Bill 2015 which sought to provide for a Salaries and Remuneration Commission, should not surprise you. They did not want to be party to the commission. Yet at the same time, these discrepancies would have been adequately dealt with by the establishment of an independent body, which would look into the salaries of these civil servants.
The debate on the establishment of the Salaries and Remuneration’s Board started in Parliament as early as 2005, during the 7th Parliament. It seemed to make steps towards materialising later on in November 2011 (9th Parliament) when Hon Eddie Kwizera, the then MP (NRM) for Bufumbira County East, Kisoro presented a motion to Parliament for a resolution of Parliament urging government to establish a National Salaries and Remuneration Commission. He was later swayed to withdraw the motion, and instead to make statements in place thereof, since his presentation was not well thought.
It is important to observe that the National Objectives and Directive Principles of the State, as provided for in the 1995 Constitution of the republic of Uganda under Objective XI (i) states that, ‘The state shall give the highest priority to the enactment of legislation establishing measures that protect and enhance the right of the people to equal opportunities in development’. It is upon this provision, among others, that the mover of the motion, Hon Kwizera moved to urge government to provide for the commission.
Mid 2015, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon Otafire and the then Attorney General, Hon Fredrick Ruhindi tabled to Parliament, a Bill seeking to amend the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. Among others, the Bill contained Clause 11, the effect of which would have brought forth Article 247 (A) providing for the establishment of a Salaries and Remuneration Board.
The justification for this provision was stated to include harmonisation of the various salary anomalies within public service; and to resolve the difference between mainstream civil service and corporate organisations affiliated to government.
Noteworthy, is that all withdrawals made on the consolidated fund are governed by Article 154 of the Constitution of Uganda. Such withdrawals ought to be provided for by the Constitution or an Act of Parliament (including those related to amounts meant for remuneration of MPs)
The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee which was mandated to scrutinise the Bill, presented its report to the House. Among others, the report indicated that the establishment of the salaries and remuneration Commission would have the effect of determining the salaries of Members of Parliament, contrary to Article 85 of the Constitution. They argued that the determination of salaries of Members of Parliament and the staff of Parliament by the commission would affront that provision and would be unconstitutional.
There is no logical explanation to how someone in this economy could earn as much as UGX 45 million, whereas another, with similar qualification earns UGX 1 million. Worse, is a senior six graduate who creeps his or her way into Parliament and is earning UGX 25 million plus a one-time grant for car allowance, whereas university professors are earning UGX 6 million, primary school teachers are earning about UGX 400 thousand. To address this concern, government should stop the inadvertent practice of administration and deliberately push for the establishment of a national salaries and remuneration commission.