On March 16, I applied for a UK visa. Because of our poor reading culture, I had deleted an important mail concerning UK visa application without reading it.
The email from our protocol department notified all MPs that the UK visa application procedures and processing had changed. The most important piece of information was that issuance of visas had shifted from Nairobi to Pretoria in South Africa.
The shift meant increasing the number of days within which the application would be processed, I think from seven to 15. This is partly because the passport and all necessary documentation are now carried to Pretoria and back.
Our protocol officers at Parliament informed me that if I needed the visa quickly, I would have to pay about Shs 500,000 more on top of the Shs 400,000 non-refundable visa fees. This applies to people who have visited UK before.
When you pay the Shs 500,000, you are classified as priority and your visa is processed within five working days. Unfortunately for me, the visa handling office in Kamwokya informed me that my passport had also been used up. I, therefore, needed another passport.
At the ministry of Internal Affairs where passports are issued, there is no quick or urgent processing. I think it takes 14 days to print a passport. Because I am an MP, I was helped by a senior staff to get the passport printed within a reasonable time and I am grateful to that person. The last time I urgently needed a passport to fly to Juba to cover the Joseph Kony peace talks, I was helped by the then internal affairs minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda.
This time round, to have the passport printed quickly, I personally went to Internal Affairs, and I want to glorify the Almighty for what I saw there. To locate the office of the chief passport control officer, you have to wade through uncompleted structures and rotting vehicles.
There are some brand new vehicles the staff used during the citizens’ registration exercise, which appear to have been abandoned now that the exercise is nearly completed. And knowing this government and the bureaucracy involved in distribution of such vehicles, they may remain parked for months.
The queues and human traffic at the entrance are enough to tell you the story inside the compound of this ministry. Policemenwomen are busy chasing and herding people as though they are animals. At the UK visa handling office, every guest is handled with respect. There is even a dispenser for you to drink some water as you wait but at Internal Affairs, there are policemen to shout at you.
The UK visa handling office is housed in a newly-constructed building while our Internal Affairs is in almost-dilapidated structures. This is the confusion and anarchy that we are set to inherit when Mzee finally bows out either due to old age or by other means. We will inherit rotten public buildings, a rotten work culture and lack of spirit to serve.
To make people in public offices know that the citizens they are chasing around are their customers and therefore their bosses, will require a lot of innovation and hard work. This anarchy and lack of customer care is what you find at ministry of lands and all their outlets in districts.
Because of the service they sell, internal affairs and lands ministries should be the richest in the country. Internal Affairs sells passports (each at Shs 100,000), work permits, visas, etc.
The ministry of lands sells land titles and other related services. The lands ministry is one of the poorest and, of course, badly managed. As a result, I think the Non-Tax Revenue (NTR) available to finance our national budget is just Shs 145 billion a year. The rest of the money, about Shs 9 trillion, is collected from citizens by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
Governments all over the world are engaged in production and generate some income to finance their expenditure. I know the slogan here is to build an economy that is private sector-led but this should be no excuse for incompetence.
Just imagine if the ministry of lands opened a window for priority how much money would it generate in a year? I have been chasing a land title for my land in Mukono for three years. A land title is money because you can use it to borrow from banks.
Lots of businesses and business initiatives have been killed by the slow processes at Lands. Just imagine if Internal Affairs opened a priority window for passports and work permits and all their other services how much money would they be collecting?
This is what we need to introduce in government departments. Just improving provision of essential services would raise a quarter of revenue that we need to finance our budget.
Why wouldn’t Makerere issue me with my transcript or certificate within hours? Getting government to work and produce is one of the failings of the regime. The whole of Wakiso is now built but I doubt if we have generated enough revenue from issuance of building permits.
All we have mastered is chasing around businessmen and reducing their profit.
The author is Kyadondo East MP.
Source : The Observer