Kampala. The government is to increase the wage bill from Shs3.35 trillion to Shs3.56 trillion in the 2017/18 Budget as it enhances salaries with particular attention to the Electoral Commission (EC), the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and lecturers in public universities.
The most significant change in the wage bill is going to the EC, where the wages expenditure goes up by 240 per cent from Shs8.3b to Shs28.3b.
The enhancement of salaries at the EC is part of the request by the new leadership team at the national electoral body. Already, a new salary structure has been approved, including a surge in the salaries of commissioners.
Thus, the new EC boss, Justice Simon Byabakama will, starting next month, bag a gross monthly salary of Shs21.1m, up from Shs8.4m. His deputy’s salary will be almost tripled from Shs8.1m to Shs20.3m, while other commissioners will get Shs20m, up from Shs8m.
The 29 principal election officers will each earn Shs9.6m, senior election officers (Shs7.8m), election officers (Shs6.5m), and the Commission’s least paid employee, a support staff’s monthly earning will jump from Shs355, 764 to Shs1.7m.
The pay rise was initially mooted by the previous Commission led by Dr Badru Kiggundu amid reports of mass exit of employees due to poor remuneration.
While defending the salary increment in Parliament’s Budget Committee recently, Justice Byabakama said low pay compromises the integrity of EC officials and threatens the integrity of electoral democracy in the country.
Other notable increments are in the army where the wages will be enhanced by Shs14b.
The UPDF spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, told Saturday Monitor the plan is to ensure that the lowest paid soldier gets an equivalent of what a primary school teacher earns.
“We are starting with our lower ranking cadres from the bottom. Currently, a private earns less than a primary school teacher,” Brig Karemire said.
URA, which is tasked with collecting Shs15 trillion by the end of the 2017/18 financial year, recorded the second highest wage bill expansion by 19.4 per cent.
Considering the task ahead, URA will have to hire some new staff but more importantly, invest more in the current workforce in order to reach the collection target. In the current financial year, URA is expected to miss its collection target by nearly Shs300b.
“Government’s revenue mobilisation strategy will focus on enhancing tax administration by building a stronger compliance culture. Tax administration will be enhanced through taxpayer education, strengthening detection of non-compliance by taxpayers, recovery of tax arrears and combating smuggling, undervaluation and under-declaration,” Finance minister Matia Kasaija said in the Budget speech read on Thursday.
URA staff, who are charged with collecting taxes amid temptations, last received a bonus, which is procedurally approved by Parliament, in January 2016 after the body overshot its collection target by Shs139 billion in the Financial Year 2014/2015. This was the biggest tax surplus ever recorded in the history of the tax body. URA employs more than 2,000 people.
The usual staff bonus takes the form of doubling the salary of each employee.
Early this year, a huge disquiet was stirred among the staff after it emerged that their boss, Ms Doris Akol, was among the key principals behind the scheme dubbed “presidential handshake” in which 42 senior government officials were secretly paid Shs6b as a reward for “successfully” defending government in two oil cases.
URA’s commissioner for public and corporate affairs, Mr Vincent Seruma, said the body already had a structure adjustment that was approved by the board to hire more 200 employees “but had never been financed.”
“Hiring of additional staff is to enable us strengthen our capacity to mobilise domestic taxes, and increase tax education in order to enhance compliance,” Mr Sseruma said.
In his speech, Mr Kasaija made reference to only Shs20b salary enhancement for the teaching and non-teaching staff in public universities and teachers in secondary and primary schools.
That in part explains why the education sector wage bill is expected to rise by 7 per cent to Shs1.47 trillion. All the public universities have seen an increment in wages. In the education budget, the Local Government wage bill for teachers always takes the largest share. The government has also made an adjustment here, increasing the wage bill by about Shs45b.
In his address to the inaugural Cabinet meeting in June last year, following his re-election for a fifth term, President Museveni listed among his priorities, the gradual stepping up of salaries of soldiers and other security personnel to match those of teachers and medical workers.
As the wage budget grows, the domestically funded development is expected to decline by Shs180b. This is in part offset by the increased external financing for several sectors.
Local Government health