By John V Sserwaniko
Dismissing the Shs1.7m they currently earn in monthly salary as peanuts, Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs who serve as accounting officers for district LGs) have demanded instant salary increment.
The demand was tabled by Tororo CAO Dunstan Balaba (who chairs the forum under which all the district CEOs unite) during the CAOs’ quarterly meeting on Friday at Hotel Africana. In attendance were both CAOs and Town Clerks and the total number in attendance exceeded 200. State Minister for Local Government Jennifer Byakatonda Namuyangu opened the meeting the rest of whose proceedings took place under close supervision and moderation of MLOG PS the indefatigable Benjamin Kumumanya.
In his submission that the audience unanimously cheered with lots of foot-stamping, Balaba said his members are demanding their salary to be increased to Shs13.9m per month and Shs11.35m for the Town Clerks. As Namuyangu uneasily turned in her seat, the senior CAO articulated why their demand was long overdue and well justified. Saying that 2019/20 should be “a year of salary enhancement,” Balaba said despite playing very critical roles in service delivery, the CAOs, TCs and other accounting officers in lower Local Governments have for long been subjected to discrimination as the rest of the groups have had their monthly remuneration enhanced.
“We handle big budgets averaging between Shs20bn and Shs50bn yet we are the least paid. We handle thousands of personnel and we are also critical to service delivery not only of one category but service delivery full circle in everything. We handle personnel that are very fragile and even the political class too mount plenty of pressure on us. We have been making our case to parliament even last year but we are always ignored,” Balaba said as his constituents chorused “tell them.”
He carried on: “We work in hard circumstances including having to be moved from time to time and sometimes some of us are deployed more than 1000kms far away from our homes, leaving behind our dear families. How can I regularly visit my family with that net salary of Shs1.7m?” Another CAO (names withheld), speaking immediately after Balaba, argued the central government can’t claim to have moral authority to criticize accounting officers for the misappropriation of funds when its them (their superiors) clearly subjecting them to so much temptation; being entrusted to be custodians of billions while officially earning so little.
Sounding apologetic and saying she fully understands the personal constraints under which CAOs operate, Namuyangu explained that CAOs were to initially benefit under the blanket offer the Museveni government had made to enhance salaries of all civil servants “which has since been called off.” She said it’s only DHOs that will have their salary enhanced to prevent losing them to greener pastures because they are scarce to get and some of them also do both technical and administrative work.
She offered to lead the CAO in making their demands a national debate issue but suggested the matter be presented as the sector-wide need for salary enhancement in the entire local government sector as opposed to isolating just CAOs and TCs as the only category meriting salary increment. She implied there are other categories of civil servants in LG whose salary should be simultaneously discussed for enhancement.
Namuyangu, who can’t be sure if the upcoming cabinet reshuffle will leave her there, advised such sector-wide efforts be intensified after the commencement of the FY2019/2020. “We feel for you because you handle a lot of money but I will have to liaise with the Ministry of Public Service and we raise the matter in cabinet. Please keep working. Don’t be demoralized,” she said.
She then referred to Sembabule were she had an outreach activity the previous day. “One of the civil servants told me point blank during the meeting we had there that ‘we shall resort to stealing government funds so as to give that pay rise to ourselves because we are always ignored.’ They said they are always ignored in government programs and they gave the example of OWC.” Namuyangu agreed with Balaba’s observation and wondered why CAOs and TCs have always been overlooked when teachers and other categories have had their salary enhanced. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).