HOW THE MERGER OF MINISTRIES DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES CAN ASSURE SERVICE DELIVERY?

Earlier in the week  Hon. Wilson Muruli Mukasa the minister and political head of the ministry of Public service presneted to the parliament government’s proposal to merge its ministries, departments and agencies for better service delivery, however he is yet to complete his submission as instructed by the deputy speaker of the Parliament of Uganda.

BACK GROUND

With the COVID 19 serge effecting the need for budget cuts and reduction of government expenditure in order to focus funds into resurrection of the suffocating economy, the Government has planned to come up with an omnibus Bill this financial year, which will cause the entities that were established by an Act of Parliament to cease to exist. It’s important to know when the idea of formation of these departments and agencies originated from
. Formation of agencies commenced in 1998 in a bid to fulfill the mandate of the 1995 constitution of Uganda with the view that decentralisation of government operations ensured better service delivery. Other agencies where formed due to different legal frame works while others mushroomed from the different political appointments.

Different Ministries will be affected some of the entities under the finance ministry which will be affected include Non-Performing Assets Recovery Tribunal, Departed Asians’ Property Custodian Board, National Lotteries Board, Uganda Properties Holding Ltd, Tax Appeals Tribunal, Uganda Energy Credit and Capitalisation Company Ltd, and Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Authority. Most of these and many other entities under the finance ministry will have their duties executed in various departments within the ministry.

Under the trade ministry, entities that will be affected include Uganda Warehouse Receipt Authority, Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda Export Promotion Board and Uganda Free Zones Authority. They will be merged into one authority with specialised directorates.

For the Justice Law and Order Sector, entities that will be affected include Amnesty Commission, National Citizenship and Immigration Control, Law Reform Commission and Centre for Alternative Dispute.

In the education sector, entities that will be affected include Kyambogo Teacher Curriculum, National Library of Uganda and Students Financing Board. Other entities under the education ministry which will be affected include the National Council for Higher Education, National Curriculum Development Centre, Uganda Nurses and Midwifery Examinations Board, Uganda Allied Health Examinations Board, Uganda Business Technical Examinations Board and the Directorate of Industrial Training. The National Curriculum Development Centre will be merged with the National Council for Higher Education to create the National Council for Education.

Uganda Nurses and Midwifery Examinations Board will be merged with the Uganda Allied Health Examinations Board to create the Uganda Health Professionals Assessment Board.

The Public Service Commission, Health Service Commission and Education Service Commission will be merged into one commission with specialised directorates/departments.

The National Population Secretarial, the Metropolitan Physical Planning Authority, the National Physical Planning Board and the Town and Country Planning Board will be taken over by the National Planning Authority as departments under it.

Under the agriculture ministry, entities to be affected include the National Agricultural Advisory Services, Uganda Coffee Development Authority, Uganda Cotton Development Organisation, the Dairy Development Authority, the Livestock Industries Ltd, Uganda Seeds Ltd and Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation. Their services will be provided by departments under the agriculture ministry.

Under the energy sector, the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd, the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd, and the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Ltd will all be merged into one entity of the directorate of energy development which will be under the energy ministry.

According to documents from the Adam smith International proposal which was tasked to review these different entities Cabinet resolved to merge and streamline at least 96 state agencies. Out of the 157 institutions presented to Cabinet for review, it was agreed to retain 61 agencies. At least 33 entities are to be incorporated back into the parent ministries. There were nine entities where Cabinet sought technical analysis.

They included the Uganda Cancer Institute, which Cabinet had resolved to return to Mulago Hospital as a directorate, Uganda Heart Institute, Uganda AIDs Commission, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Equal Opportunities Commission, Uganda Human Rights Commission, National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Insurance Regulatory Authority and Uganda Retirement and Benefits Authority.

WHY THESE AGENCIES WHERE CREATED?

The main reason for the formation of these agencies was to manoeuvre the bureaucracy in the traditional setting of the different ministries. It is viewed that this move made certain directives of the Principal of the nation be effected in a shorter period of time with the best professionals available to him taking the forefront. With the good will fronted towards their formation the rising question is whether they are fulfilling their mandate. The answer to that is staggering but its evident government is going to downsize them with the idea of “cutting its coat to its size”.

WHY GOVERNMENT WANTS TO MERGE ITS AGENCIES?

Many will argue that the function of each agency should speak to its purpose but overtime the following can be evidently witnessed from the functionality of the agencies and their parent Ministries:

  1. There id increased government expenditure as each of these entities need to have a separate account from their parent Ministry. And from the different publications one realises over the years these account may have bigger budgets than some of their ministries.
  2. There is ambiguity of command as some of the executive directors’ report directly to the Head of State and not necessarily the Minister of the ministry they ought to report to.
  3. A ministry can have overlapping mandates with an agency which increases financial load on the public fund. For example, one cannot explain what NEMA does that the NFA cannot Do.
  4. There are also conflicting mandates as one can witness different methodologies used by a department in a ministry and an agency having closely related mandates.

Lastly this could sound petty but true the treatment of some of the Directors of these agencies straight from salaries to incentives like right of way don’t go well with some of the ministers in charge. Therefore, pushing the merger to some is an emotional attempt to render some jobless.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

While the merger is a welcome idea government should have a sequential approach towards this necessary action. The Agencies are characterised with highly qualified and arguably the greatest skill set the nation can be proud of. The output of the Agency verses the Ministries should be identified. Secondly a fresh skill set should be recruited within the ministries at lower salary burden. Lastly the government can reduce the duplication and mandate of these different ministries and agencies to promote better service delivery to the public.