Uganda: Management of the wage bill in local governments
Commentary – The Ugandan government has decentralized the management and development of human resources to local governments (LGs) under section 126 of the Local Government Act Cap 243. This legislation gives local governments the power to determine their human resource needs.
Hiring, developing and promoting a skilled workforce is the backbone of excellence in service delivery to the public. One of the challenges LGs face in managing human resources is not performing at optimal levels. Most GLs operate at an average capacity of 50%, which is attributed to a limited payroll. Even when LGs have constantly complained about the limited payroll, most ironically have not fully utilized the available funds allocated to them in the payroll and continue to return them to the Consolidated Fund according to reports. of the Auditor General.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) released in June 2020 a backgrounder that noted the effects of COVID-19 on some human resources operations in LGs. .
They included poor salary absorption and poor performance in fiscal year 2019/20 as a result of the indefinite rescheduling of interviews by District Service Commissions (DSCs) due to the lockdown. Slow accountability for pensions and salary arrears in LGs. Insufficient digital infrastructure and information technology (IT), restricted movements and GL not connected to the integrated staff payroll system (IPPS). All of this has affected the use of technology in payroll management.
Additionally, most LG managers do not work remotely, in part because they lack the computer skills and the necessary equipment. A recent study conducted by ACODE noted that among ICT staff in LGs, none had all the skills required to work remotely. The skills required include the installation, operation and maintenance of technical equipment (including software). Only 50 percent had basic skills in engineering and software development, computer programming, data analysis and database administration.
According to the Auditor General’s latest report, several local governments did not use their budgeted payrolls for fiscal year 2019/2020 and had the funds returned to the central government treasury in accordance with Ugandan law regulations. on the management of public finances of 2015.
According to the annual performance reports for fiscal year 2019/20 from several GLs, the unspent payroll was attributed to several reasons ranging from unfilled vacancies in different departments and delays in adding new staff to payroll.
For example, only 62% of staff recruited in fiscal year 2018/2019 had accessed payroll within two months of being appointed. Many LGs have failed to attract and retain the right staff in certain departments. In some districts, there were delays in the separation of wages whenever new districts were created. The failure of retirees to submit correct information for the processing of pensions and bonuses was also highlighted. While most of the noted issues persisted in LGs, they were exacerbated by COVID-19.
A concept paper presented by the Ministry of the Civil Service (MoPS) during the LG budget consultative workshops for fiscal year 2019/20 on human resource management issues in the public service, recognizes the challenge of under -use of the wage bill.
She attributed this defect to several reasons in particular; lack of monthly payroll review, late recruitment of staff, irregular salary analysis affecting annual salary increases without pay and payment into the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS).
Additionally, the ministry noted that some LGs continued to request copies of physical pension records indicating low use of the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS), which would have helped speed up the process. These challenges have limited the ability of LGs to make full use of the wage bill and therefore to ensure service delivery.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) and other related telecommunications and digital networks are a major driving force in building informed societies and economies around the world. Increasingly, ICTs are recognized as a new factor in improving existing governance practices. For example, the use of ICT ideally allows LGs to organize their scheduled meetings, conduct activities such as recruiting and even interview candidates online.
Adopting ICT is crucial in this new normal of COVID-19. MoPS, MoLG and MoICT should work together to ensure LGs have full-fledged ICT departments with relevant skills. There is a need to encourage and facilitate LGs with appropriate infrastructure and equipment to adopt the technology for some of the processes that can be accomplished online, such as EDMS and IPPS, in order to save time. and money on manual processes. It is crucial to train and equip all LG staff with IT skills. For example, DSC members, if trained, can perform recruitment processes online.