While the nation was lost in the noise of insecurity, a long presidential state of Nation Address, and a mediocre performance of the National football team, the Cabinet was as concluding on its deliberations on the fate of all government agencies and authorities
The president had earlier tasked the Prime Minister and the Vice President to forge a policy regarding the Government agencies which according to him were a wastage of public resources and duplicated to the point that some were executing similar duties which according to him made planning hard. It is against this background that the Cabinet finally decided to disband and(or) merge some authorities, and have realign some of the Authorities’ functions back to their mother ministries structuring them as mere Ministry departments. If implemented, this would mean that the said Agencies/authorities are either merged, disbanded or have their mandate incorporated back into their mother ministries.
If statistics are a thing to go by, it is worth noting that expenditure by the said agencies was (or is) 37 % of the national Budget, while the staff of the said agencies take almost more than 50% from the National Salary Basket. However, the statistics given above do not tell it all.
The Cabinet decision has led to a battle of ideas as some think it is a suicide pact to the nation while others think it is a big tablet to the sick economy. Those in support of the move and the cabinet policy base see the same as a lifeline to sinking economy that is carrying a heavy expenditure burden caused by this Agencies. The other school of thought is that the move would culminate into easy Planning, and avoid clashing in roles as there is a strong belief that the same work can be executed in absence of the authorities once the ministry departments are clustered in a way that accommodates all the work that has been done by the respective agencies.
Questions such as, what is the difference in mandate of Uganda tourism Board, and a sister entity for only Chimpanzees?; why then would you form another entity as an education centre just doing one of the roles of the Tourism Board? Could it be proof of failure of the parent Agency to perform its role or need to create jobs under the shadow theme” Boona Balye”? One would not therefore be crucified for saying that the original purpose was diluted and lost in other intentions of the state.
A case in point is the National Identification and Registration Authority(NIRA) whose mother ministry is the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Without prejudice to its achievement in the government projects ,during the consultation by Parliament on its formations, the main advocates of the authority were primarily the former employees under the ministry who according to the reports dominated the applications for the available slots leaving questions as to whether the entity was created to ease service delivery r provide jobs to whoever smelt opportunity from the move.
Those against the move are using the Mischief and Purposive rule while considering why the agencies were created in the first Place, and what were they created to remedy. The same therefore argues that the move would take away the effect that has been created by the establishment and running of those agencies, with some scribes listing a long list of achievements especially combining the difference before the creation of those specific agencies and after the agencies were in place. The sound of those against the move echoes one worrying voice; Slow service delivery. And the one-million-dollar question is whether we should sacrifice efficiency just to save peanuts from the National Budget.
The end point of the argument against the move is evidenced through a long list of the Untouchable Agencies that are neither subject to disbandment nor structural changes. These Include the Kampala Capital City Authority. No argument was fronted by the cabinet as to why these were not subject to the structural changes but one would say it is because they have fruits to show for their mandate and they can proudly show their goal chat. This therefore leads to the question as to whether realigning the Agencies back to their mother ministries will make them result oriented.
A few political critics argue that the move is an accountability assassin, and that the cabinet pushed for this just to have control of the affairs against since most of the powers were being exercised by the Authorities leaving them win a seat of power with no real authority. Based on the recent history where Ministers have been constantly involved in scandals linked to their influence of government agencies and corruption, awarding of contracts and allocation of agency budgets, one would say putting these agencies as departments directly under the ministry will make the situation worse. A case in Point is the Katosi road scandal where the Minister was accused of Inter meddling and corruption.
Whichever side one chooses in this intellectual argument, the other unavoidable effect is this bold political-economic move is loss of employment to the former employees of those Authorities and reduction in salary to the remaining portion of the other officials from the same agencies on the individual level. In terms of the Economy as a whole, the decision as discussed above risks bearing fruits of slow service delivery but positively saving the Tax Payer a recurrent sum of money that has been apportioned to the Agencies.
From the legal perspective, it is worth noting that the said authorities are a creature of statutes and therefore the Parliament will after be passing the decision of the cabinet dive into the process of repealing the Acts that established the authorities, or amending some provisions of the respective Acts to suit this government Plot.
If this “agency city” burns, all it will leave are piles of employment suit resignation letters, compensation proceedings, ministerial scandals and a slower service delivery as the difference in the vision of this mission and the implementation thereof is evidently different. Whichever the cabinet envisaged will be but just an animation of what the reality will be once the decision is passed by Parliament.
Legal Associate, PACE Associates Uganda.