Uncertainty in the merger of Govt agencies: A brief sojourn at NFA

Mar 14, 2024

The merger process brought forth a cloud of ambiguity, leaving many employees, myself included, in a state of professional limbo.

Kefa Atibuni is the Principal Communication Officer at Muni University. Courtesy photo

Kefa Atibuni

World Forest Day which takes place on March 21, 2024, was designated by the United Nations to spotlight the vital role of forests for people and the planet, I find myself reflecting on my brief tenure of about two months as the Communication and Public Relations Manager at the National Forestry Authority (NFA).

Undoubtedly, the opportunity to serve at the Forest House, NFA's headquarters, was an immense honour. The agency, tasked with managing Central Forest Reserves on a sustainable basis, plays a pivotal role in supplying high-quality forestry-related products and services to various sectors. 

The chance to contribute to the sustainable management of our nation's natural resources was both a privilege and a responsibility I took seriously. 

However, exactly a month ago, on February 21, 2024, the New Vision Newspaper ran a banner headline, "Agency Merger: Affected staff to get no compensation." 

The story narrates how the government had officially commenced the process of merging public agencies by tabling in parliament a raft of bills transferring the functions of several agencies back to their mother ministries. 

The bills propose no compensation will be paid to staff as a result of the merger and that some of the affected staff of the collapsed agencies may be redeployed by the Ministry of Public Service pending availability of positions. 

That day I received phone calls from various relations, including my parents and friends who knew I had just moved on to the National Forestry Authority (NFA), one of the agencies enlisted for possible mainstreaming as a Department under the Ministry of Water and Environment.

Before I joined NFA, I had heard of the merger-talk but it didn’t occur to me that it would be done in haste. I knew there would be a clear roadmap to the merger and therefore I would have enough time to reorg and move to other spheres of life. 

However, the uncertainty surrounding the merger process cast a shadow over my short-lived journey at the organization. 

Many of my colleagues at NFA shared with me how management has been supportive in preparing them for the uncertainties since 2018, by asking them to focus on their work regardless of the outcome of the merger. 

While I am passionate about contributing to the betterment of our dear motherland, the concerns regarding job security cannot be overlooked. 

The merger process brought forth a cloud of ambiguity, leaving many employees, myself included, in a state of professional limbo. The prospect of losing a job that one is just beginning to settle into is a disconcerting thought.

In light of these uncertainties, I made the difficult decision to reconsider my position at Muni University, a place I hold dear. It's not a decision made lightly, nor is it a reflection of a lack of commitment to the cause of sustainable forestry, but rather a response to the genuine concerns that have emerged during this period of organizational transition.

I believe that the success of any organization lies in the dedication and morale of its workforce. The ongoing merger, while undoubtedly aiming for a more streamlined and efficient government structure, has inadvertently instilled a sense of trepidation among employees. 

The human aspect of these transitions cannot be understated, and the government needs to recognize the human dimensions of organizational change, especially the complexities and emotional toll that such transitions can have on individuals and their professional journeys.

As I return to Muni University, I carry with me the experiences gained during my brief stint at NFA. I remain committed to contributing to the development of our nation, and I sincerely hope that the ongoing reforms in government agencies, including NFA, will be executed with due consideration for the welfare of their invaluable human resources.

I sincerely thank NFA's Board of Directors, led by Chairman Dr. Eng. Christopher Ebal, and the Executive Director, Mr. Tom Obong Okello, for the trust they had in me. I also appreciate the hardworking and amiable staff at NFA, whose camaraderie made the Forest House a truly serene workplace.

My decision to resign from NFA is not a retreat from responsibility but a response to the prevailing uncertainties that demanded careful consideration of my professional future. I wish NFA and its dedicated team all the success in navigating the challenges of organizational restructuring.

The writer is the Principal Communication Officer at Muni University.

Contact: k.atibuni@muni.ac.ug

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