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Government fails to fill up 18,000 vacancies

Kampala- As the country’s unemployment level continues towards crisis level despite the government’s numerous promises of job creation, a total of 18,347 posts are lying vacant at district, municipality and town council levels across the country, according to the Auditor General’s (AG) 2014 report on local governments.

According to the report, understaffing has remained a serious problem at local governments for the last two years, jumping from 32.3 per cent in 2013 to 33 per cent in 2014.

The AG observes in his report that such levels of understaffing “aersely” affect service delivery to the community.

Indeed, a look through the report reveals that almost all local government accounting officers were blaming their accounting omissions and commissions on “lack of enough staff”, a thing the government’s chief auditor says should be addressed urgently.

“There is need for the accounting officers to develop capacity building strategies and engage the Ministry of Public Service and the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to address the understaffing problem,” the AG states in the report.

A couple of years ago, government suspended recruitment of public servants as a temporary measure to clean up the public service payroll and to realign the employment processes in government with the budget allocations.

However, while local governments blame the ministries of Public Service and Finance for being mean in releasing funding, the Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Mr Jim Mugunga, said the responsibility of staff recruitment lies with the accounting officer.

“We are not against Ugandans getting jobs but we aise against haphazard recruitments that not only affects the budgets but also cause discomfort to those who have been recruited. We do not want a scenario where one is given a job but takes six months without being paid.

“Our policy is that the recruitment should be planned and be part of the budget process. The responsibility to ensure that those vacant posts are filled squarely rests on the accounting officers,” he said.

According to Mr Mugunga, all accounting officers should notify the relevant ministries of the vacant posts under their mandate and they will get filled.

However, Mr Wadri Sam Nyakua, the Arua District chairman, said it is not as easy as Mr Mugunga portrays it.

“There is no pleasure in having a skeleton staff. We want our district to perform well. We have requested for clearance from Public Service and ministry of Finance. You get to a moment where you just give up,” he said. “Accusing us is just hide-and-seek blame-game being played by Public Service and Finance and it is not proper,” he added.

Arua Municipal Council alone has a deficit of 89 staff.

Public Service ministry could not be reached for a comment but speaking on a similar issue early this year, former ministry’s spokesperson Jonas Tumwine said blaming the ministry is very unfair because recruitment of civil servants is based on the availability of money for salaries and wages, which is dictated by ministry of Finance.

Gulu District chairperson Mapenduzi Ojara said they have spent nine years without a confirmed district engineer and chief finance officer.

“Sometimes it is hard to attract applicants in areas of health and engineering. We applied to fill our gaps and they allowed us. We have already aertised and my hope is that we will be able to attract applicants,” he said.

Accoridng to the AG report, the most affected departments are administration and clerkship, health and education.

In the 66 local governments whose understaffing problem was captured in detail, there are 1,323 vacant slots for clerks and administrators, 609 in education, 1,154 in health, 452 in finance and internal audit, and 199 in community development.

Buyende Town Council’s unfilled positions include heads of some critical departments like town engineer, senior treasurer, internal auditor and records officer, while Otuke lacks the chief administrative officer and chief finance officer, among other posts.

According to the World Bank statistics for 2014, Uganda’s unemployment level stands at 3.8 per cent.

“People are crying for employment and there are vacancies, which government is not filling. It (government) should move fast and recruit deserving people who are on the street,” National Organisation of Trade Unions boss Usher Wilson Owere said.

Workers representative, Mr Arinaitwe Rwakajara, said government should lift the ban on recruitment.

Anti-corruption crusader Cissy Kagaba questioned President Museveni’s promise to create more jobs if his government has failed to fill even the existing posts.

In his manifesto, President Museveni, among other things, promises to reduce unemployment and set up centres to retrain graduates to get employable skills.

Other presidential candidates, including Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Amama Mbabazi too have pledged to tackle the unemployment problem.

Highest vacancies

District No of vacancies Kasese 1,068

Pallisa 785

Isingiro 486

Kanungu 480

Sheema 881

Rubirizi 195

Ibanda 313

Bugiri 109

Jinja 184

Kaabong 117

SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR

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