By Yasiin Mugerwa
Posted Friday, March 4 2011 at 00:00
Civil servants from several departments were by last evening still complaining that they had not yet received their February salaries even as the Ministry of Finance insisted that the money had been sent to their bank accounts.
Civil servants, including teachers, medical workers and police officers who talked to Daily Monitor yesterday said they had not received any explanation concerning the delay in salaries—a position confirmed by the chairman of the National Organisation of Trade Unions, Mr Wilson Owere.
“It is true civil servants have not received their February salaries and we haven’t received any explanation from the government,” Mr Owere said. “I am going to contact the Head of Civil Service and the Minister for Public Service tomorrow (today) to understand what’s going on.”
But in a separate interview, the Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, said “there were delays but civil servants have since been paid.”
However, when asked to spell out when exactly the money was sent to civil servants’ bank accounts, he insisted: “I have already told you we delayed because of the new payment system but now we have paid.”
Ordinarily, public servants receive their salaries by 28th of every month. But some civil servants this newspaper spoke to from Parliament, Internal Affairs, Finance, Health, Education and Trade ministries, among others, indicated they had for the last three days been checking their bank accounts but without good news.
“The permanent secretary told us that the money will be sent to our accounts on Friday (today) but I am not sure whether the money will be there,” said a visibly disturbed civil servant. “They said there were delays in Ministry of Finance due to system changes but we don’t know what happened.”
To check bureaucracy in payment system within government ministries and agencies, the Treasury has installed an Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS), a method that sends salaries directly to individual bank accounts.
However, some politicians think the scarcity has to do with the just-concluded elections.
The Leader of Opposition, Prof. Ogenga Latigo, said the money to pay civil servants salaries was used by President Museveni for campaigns.
“It’s obvious they spent all the money on campaigns that’s why civil servants have not been paid,” Prof. Latigo said. “They misused public funds and thought there will be no consequences.”
Kawempe South MP Ssebuliba Mutumba attributed the delay to what he described as a “bottomless election” that cost the country billions of shillings and left the Treasury broke.
“We approved funds for salaries in the supplementary budget. Unfortunately, the money for civil servants was instead used to bribe MPs and to bankroll NRM candidates,” Mr Ssebuliba said.
“They dished out taxpayers money as if there was no tomorrow and in the end civil servants are crying. They bribed voters and inflation is getting wild and our people are suffering. Unless they print more money to pay civil servants, our people will continue to go through hell and this is just the beginning. Ugandans need to tighten their belts, it’s not going to be business as usual.”
The government released over Shs120 billion to the Electoral Commission for February’s general election, compared to Shs69b that was spent in 2006.
These events follow earlier reports in this newspaper that days after passing a Shs602b supplementary budget in January, government was stuck without money. Finance Minister Syda Bbuma admitted then that all government agencies had been put on notice about the serious cash flow problem.
Yesterday, Ms Bbumba and her public service counterpart Sezzi Mbaguta said they were too busy to explain what was going on. However, the Head of Civil Service, Mr John Mitala, said he was not aware that civil servants had not yet received their salaries.
“There could be isolated cases here and there but if some civil servants have not been paid that matter should be handled by the Ministry of Public Service,” Mr Mitala said. “I am not aware that civil servants have not been paid because I checked mine and it was there.”
In the 2010/11 financial year, the government wage bill is about Shs1.1 trillion.