By Moses Walubiri & Cyprian Musoke
KAMPALA - President Yoweri Museveni has promised to crack the whip on bureaucrats keeping ‘ghosts’ on government payrolls, warning of grave consequences to those caught in the dragnet being cast by the new financial management systems.
The Government has for years sanctioned a host of financial management systems in its effort to rid its payroll of fictitious names (ghosts) with the problem causing a number of hardships to genuine workers, including salary delays.
In his remarks on the budget speech yesterday, a tough talking Museveni, though expressing his optimism about the country’s economic trajectory, decried all manner of “financial waste” the country is suffering, citing the issue of ghosts for emphasis.
“I will not tolerate any further financial waste and the issue of ghosts must stop immediately,” Museveni said.
Earlier, the Minister of Finance, Maria Kiwanuka, had admitted that ghosts were robbing the country of vital resources that can be channeled into productive ventures to spur the economy, calling upon all political leaders to tackle the problem head on.
“These ghosts are our parents, wives and relatives. Let us fight this problem and use resources going to ghosts to provide service delivery to our people,” Kiwanuka said, noting that politicians turning the problem into a blame game would be counterproductive.
The Government has implemented a decentralisation of its payroll, which has seen the management of payrolls devolved to individual government agencies, departments and districts, instead of Ministry of Public Service.
The Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, recently told Parliament that an exhaustive clean-up of payrolls was responsible for salary delays, which affected thousands of civil servants.
Last year, Ministry of Finance released a report indicating that the Government is losing over sh28b annually to ghost teachers and pupils.
With Treasury lately indicating that the recent cleanup of the payroll resulted into deletion of close to 9,000 ghosts from payroll, the problem is much wider than investigative arms of government have been able to unmask.
Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka read the budget for financial year 2014/15 on Thursday. PHOTO/Enock Kakande
In the same interface, Museveni said civil servants at all levels ought to facilitate investments, instead of fostering what he described as “unwieldy bureaucracy to create avenues for soliciting bribes.”
“Public servants must enhance and not impede investments if we are to create employment for the youth,” Museveni said, warning that the country cannot continue relying on donors, whose “aid comes with strings attached.”
He revealed that he had directed the Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority and Ministry of Finance to tighten measures on tax collection.
Pertaining to infrastructure, Museveni extolled the government planning blue print, which has seen resource allocation in the budget “shift from consumption to production and infrastructure aimed at reducing the cost of doing business in Uganda”.
The President highlighted the over 800km of roads that were tarmacked in the financial year 2013/14, noting that as a landlocked country, having a good road network is integral to Uganda’s ability to realise its economic potential.
“We have achieved connectivity through tarmacked roads. Now, it is possible for one to drive to all corners of the country on tarmac roads,” Museveni noted.
On combating HIV/AIDS, Museveni read from his usual script on self-discipline, noting that the new infections, although there has been a marked reduction in numbers, is largely due to irresponsibility.
According to latest data, new infections dropped from 160,000 in 2011 to 137,000 in 2013, while HIV/AIDS-related deaths dropped from 25,000 to 8,000 in the same period.
“It is a pity that someone can get infected with AIDs now given all the available information. It is a pity that people, who were healthy, went out to look for AIDS and they got it. It is a pity, but that is the nature of human beings,” Museveni said, as a ripple of murmurs swept through the audience.
Museveni also reiterated his resolve to continue fostering regional stability citing his decision to offer military support to South Sudan.
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Tough warning over payroll ghosts