69 Ministers, 327 Members of Parliament, 278 political appointees who include 80 resident District Commissioners and assistants, 75 presidential advisors and 43 private presidential secretaries and their deputies. This is just a picture of Uganda's over-the-top public administration. Pearl of Africa as commonly known is argued that not only is it a sleeping giant but also an over-governed and unproductive country.
It has many administrative units; 45,000 local councils, 5500 parishes, 1026 sub-counties, 151 counties, 18 municipalities and 80 districts. All these structures have executive 10 man executive officials. So, the total number of officials is 10 times the number of every administrative unit.
How does this nation manage its servants? Uganda's expenditure is very enormous and abnormal.
A presidential advisor and his deputy earn 908.5 million Ugandan shillings enough to pay 378 primary school teachers a salary of 200,000 Ugandan shillings a month.
Private presidential secretary and his assistant earn 7.5 billion shillings enough to; support 2,077 primary schools with 800 pupils each, buy drugs for 890 health centers, construct 935 classrooms or pay 37,500 primary school teachers. Members of Parliament altogether earn 57 billion excluding the allowances, the 69 ministers have all sorts of allowances and only government expenditure on Ministers vehicles fuel, oil and maintenance in 2006/07 was 92 billion Ugandan shillings.
In 1986, the National Resistance Movement came to power. It collected 84 billion as revenue. Inflation was at 240 percent. It worked tirelessly and revived the economy reducing inflation to 0.3 percent. The present government collects 4 trillion as revenue but sectors like education and health which used to be very vibrant are now in shambles.
This nation (Uganda) has 31 million people. According to the ministry of health, there's one doctor to every 300,000 people. Surprisingly, there's one administrative leader to every 6 Ugandans. Uganda has one of the poorest administrative structures in the entire world. The poor administration can and only provides poor services to its citizens. The government at times makes good policies but it's very hard for them to be implemented leading to all these and many other deficiencies.
Policies like the decentralization policy to help distribute resources evenly, minimum health package which puts all health centers under a structured organization, Medium Term Expenditure Framework that makes the government budget and expenditure known after every 3 years, etc. are examples of some good policies which do exist only on paper but not in reality. Such good and "efficient" policies have been made by the government on paper yet over 600 billion Ugandan shillings go down the drain without any trace almost every single year.
The main reason why such good policies cannot be implemented in Uganda today is due to nothing but the government's huge expenditure on its top leaders and the very poor wages paid to its civil servants. This has led to absenteeism, lack of morale, etc. as most of these poor public servants do other jobs besides their regular jobs just to make ends meet.
It is quite sad considering the fact that Uganda has produced one of the brightest people in all of East Africa with prestigious institutions (such as the prestigious Makerere University) but has the lowest productivity in the entire region. The truth of the matter is that, Ugandans keep juggling at their available natural resources to the point of stuffing all their leaders to the brim like holiday turkeys.
Another major problem facing Uganda today is the problem of "let's pass new laws". Uganda has this "barbaric" culture of passing laws to solve all problems. This has led to nothing but a big country full of laws but lawlessness. Laws are being passed every single day yet the ones present are neither effective nor implementable. For example, Uganda has failed miserably at implementing the traffic and productive laws yet Uganda has passed yet another law to gag the media, limiting public participation in governance and locking up journalists with dissenting views (a clear indication of an extremely failed government. Dictatorship in this case)
Pundits say that, for the country to develop, it needs to reduce its administrative leaders, get more serious in enforcing its policies and laws. The administration is the main cause of the government's huge expenditure, leading to lack of funds in other sectors and nothing but extreme poverty and hunger across the entire country. Uganda as a nation needs to be serious in economic transformation and development by getting its priorities right. The first step of which includes getting rid of this highly bloated but very unproductive system of administration. Don't forget Uganda still houses one of the worst leaders in the world today.
Civil societies, great donors, private sector experts and political analysts have all raised numerous concerns over the governments expenditure on its administration but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Uganda as a country not only needs a budget discipline but also in great need of getting its priorities right and starting from the top seems like the most sensible thing to do especially at this time.
By OSCAR OTINDO (AfricaW Group Member)
The writer is a Kenyan volunteer and activist based in Nairobi, Kenya.