Gov­ern­ment ought to re­con­sider a salaries and re­mu­ner­a­tions board to solve salary in­con­gruities

By: Isaac Okello
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.