Parliament pronounced itself on the cabinet when it started vetting the Presidential appointees for the various posts. The vetting process comes at the dawn of Parliament passing the motion to vary the number of Cabinet Ministers from 21 to 31 and other Ministers from 31 to 49 bringing the total number to 80 on 17th May 2016.
The central argument for the increase by President Museveni is, inclusive representation; unfortunately, most MPs in favor of the motion were of the view that an increased number of Ministers will automatically translate into improved service delivery. Not sure whether to be bewildered at the fact that mainstream media and social media was awash with sentiments on the issue (it happens after every general election) or at the fact that it is approved whenever it appears on the order paper then FDC’s Hon. Franca Akello’s words came to life and rightly so. During the debate on the matter, she said, ‘I know the NRM always gets what it wants and am sure that this motion will pass…’ Granted that we have RDCs, a host of technical officers in ministries, presidential advisors, and 80 ministers. All these are a ploy to distribute the “national cake” with little regard to their value addition.
If Uganda’s history has taught us anything, it has taught us that this is not the case, am not sure there any evidence-based policy analysis attesting to the notion; it has, however, reiterated that increasing political units and representation has not had any correlation with improved service delivery but has one to increased public expenditure.
Uganda has for a long time had a very bloated cabinet and looking at the state of services at the moment there is a lot left to be desired. Am not oblivious to the positive strides that have been made over the years, the health budget has increased, from UGX 852 billion in 2012/13 to UGX 1,270 billion in 2015/16 and Education from UGX 1,592 billion to UGX 2,315 billion in the same period. However, when we juxtapose the work on the ground in these sectors coupled with the number of Ministers and the funds allocated to these sectors, results do not tally. It goes without saying that the problems facing our service delivery are beyond what our MPs argued that day, few ministers.
Firstly, Ministers are just political heads, a vehicle through which political allies are rewarded often than not, their appointment may have nothing to with their ability to perform in a specific ministry. Secondly, the notion is not feasible in terms of continuity; the rate of turnover in our Parliament is really high, it’s about 65% of MPs and Ministers, a majority are never re-appointed or re-elected. Improved service delivery does not happen overnight, so if we are pegging it to ministers’ appointments, it’s deplorable.
There are a couple of issues hindering service delivery in Uganda, for instance, the fact that public services have expanded faster than the skilled labor or the population (one of the fastest growing in the world) has expanded faster than the government cares to admit and plan for. This is coupled with absenteeism, corruption, incompetence, apathy, poor planning, inadequate funds and the list goes on and on. These are real problems around which real conversations have to be tailored so that real solutions and models that work best in addressing the underlying causes of failure are found. Halting the expansion of public services in favor of improving quality or aligning the services available to the number of people could be a start, not further exacerbating the problem of gross public expenditure as is the case now.
The 1995 Constitution, abrogated previous constitutions in a bid to democratize Uganda, Parliament in the process was given immense powers like varying cabinet numbers, regardless of whether it is or not the will of the people. Cabinet is more of a tool for patronage and political capital and does little in promoting service delivery. The ruth of the matter is, years down the road, political loyalty and domination of the ruling parties at all levels has risen above the tenets of democracy and not all decisions favor the will of the people.