KAMPALA – The government’s move to save up to Shs1 trillion through mergers of ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs) risks running into a speed bump after the first foray opened old wounds.
During the first quarter of the current financial year, the government struggled to find cash to meet many of its statutory obligations. As the government struggled to pay civil servants on its payroll, evidence pointed to acute economic austerity gaining traction.
President Museveni, for instance, met the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party lawmakers in August to impress upon them the cost-cutting benefits of rationalising MDAs.
There are 157 public agencies and 22 ministries including the offices of the President and the Prime Minister that the Public Service ministry put through the furnace.
Ultimately, the ministry’s budget wonks recommended to Cabinet that out of the 157 agencies reviewed, 80 should be retained as semi-autonomous agencies; 33 agencies should have their mandate and functions mainstreamed to their relevant line ministries; 35 agencies should be consolidated or merged into 19 entities.
Monitor, however, understands that the process of absorbing the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) back into the Energy ministry is not going according to plan. The mainstreaming of REA is supposed to serve as a litmus test after the statutory instrument No.29 of 2021 endorsed rationalisation of MDAs.
Energy ministry officials at Amber House were tasked to work with the Public Service ministry and the Public Service Commission (PSC) to hammer out a roadmap for the rationalisation exercise that could strike down under 600 jobs.
According to accounts by people familiar with the matter and documents seen by Monitor, a committee was established to set parameters for the restructuring including sieving, moving around, and compressing positions that would serve as a basis for absorbing staff.
The new structure also included abolishing positions of directors to be replaced by technical departments headed by a commissioner.
Henceforth, according to the new structure valued and approved by Cabinet, the Energy ministry will have a staff capacity of 230. A guesstimate puts the current number of staff at the ministry at over 600.
Mr Mbabazi further revealed: “People applied and those who did not make it to the shortlist appealed and we have been handling those appeals. Even this (Friday) morning, I have just handled six appeals. We are currently dealing with only the issue of REA staff. If there are complaints by staff in the Ministry of Energy, that we shall deal with later.”
Asked about discarding the new agreed structure, Mr Mbabazi said he could not authoritatively comment about it.
Across the hallowed corridors of many government agencies and departments where one cannot swing a cat without hitting a loyal cadre or a relative of the politically connected, more drama has unfurled during the Energy ministry PSC showdown.