JUNE 7, 2010: Government Jobs Not Fairly Distributed - Poll

Government Jobs Not Fairly Distributed - Poll
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Tabu Butagira
Kampala — A majority of Ugandans feel that government jobs are not distributed proportionally, a Daily Monitor opinion poll shows. Of 2,000 respondents across the country interviewed between April 19 and May 6, 65 per cent answered "no" when asked for their view on "whether national jobs are allocated fairly and proportionately to all Ugandans."

Only 440 interviewees - less than a quarter of the respondents - answered "yes" to the question, the first time it has been posed in a nationwide opinion poll in many years, while 12 per cent said they "didn't know".

TNS/Research International, an independent global research company, conducted the survey which was jointly commissioned by Daily Monitor newspaper and the Deepening Democracy Programme of the European Union.

The allocation of top public jobs, whether in the civil service or political appointments, is a thorny issue in the country; critics accuse the NRM government of giving preference in many appointments to candidates from western Uganda where President Museveni comes from.

Mr Reagan Okumu, the Member of Parliament representing Aswa constituency in the North, recently tabled in Parliament a 20-page list showing how people from western Uganda dominate key positions in security organisations, statutory bodies (parastatals), executive/political placements as well as in the civil service.

Why brought out

The list, though not exhaustive, was brought to the floor of the August House after government repeatedly failed to provide details of how top public service jobs are allocated in order to be nationally representative.

It shows that of 20 Permanent Secretaries, nine or 45 per cent come from the west, 35 per cent (seven) hail from central region while 15 per cent and 5 per cent are from eastern and northern Uganda, respectively.

Thirty-four per cent of the 70 ministers appointed or retained in the February 2009 cabinet reshuffle hail from western region; eastern region has 33 per cent while central region accounts for 22 per cent. Northern Uganda has 11 per cent of both Cabinet and junior ministerial appointments.

In addition, Chief of Defense Forces Aronda Nyakairima, Police chief Kale Kayihura; Dr Johnson Byabashaija, the Prisons boss and Gen. David Tinyefuza, the coordinator of intelligence agencies, all hail from western Uganda.

Government critics say the appointment of officials to head government statutory institutions is also tilted in favour of candidates from western Uganda to the disadvantage of their counterparts from other parts of the country. Respondents in all regions of the country, but a lower number in western region, said they did not feel that national jobs were allocated proportionally. The view was held strongest in the eastern region with 77 per cent of respondents compared to only 46 per cent of respondents in the western region.

Western region had the highest number of respondents (32 per cent) saying they felt national jobs were allocated fairly and proportionately. Respondents in all socio-economic classes, from the richest to the poorest, said the jobs were not allocated fairly but the sentiment was higher among young people aged 18 to 25 than in other age groups. The view that the jobs are not fairly given out was highest in Kampala with 77 per cent of respondents holding that view, but was also high in the rural areas where 64 per cent of the respondents concurred.

2002 census

At the time of the 2002 Census most of Uganda's total population of 24 million was living in central region (27.1 per cent), followed by and western (25.9 per cent), eastern (25.6 per cent), and northern region at 21.3 per cent.

Official figures indicated that the population was projected to grow to 29 million by mid-2009 with more of the estimated 30.6 million Ugandans concentrated in the east (25.96 per cent), central (25.95 per cent), western Uganda (25.2 per cent) and north (22.8 per cent).

There is, however, no legal requirement for jobs to be allocated according to a region's population. Government officials have repeatedly claimed that jobs are given on merit, not on the basis of which part of the country candidates come from. President Museveni told Daily Monitor in an interview in April that inquiring into distribution of top national jobs, the way MP Okumu did, is "diversionary".

"I think this is a diversion. For instance, when I look at my office, I have five permanent secretaries. Four of them [Head of Public Service John Mitala; deputy Hilda Musubira; Office of the President Tecla Kinalwa and Principal Private Secretary Amelia Kyambadde] are Baganda...They all came separately," he said.

Mr Museveni added: "The only other permanent secretary is the State House comptroller, Mr Richard Muhinda (now retired - Editor). So out of five, four are from one region but they came separately. Should we really make this an issue? We never had a conference to discuss this. I think people should ignore it; it is not a useful exercise. It may divert us from real talent and experience."

Despite the President's explanation, growing unemployment - according to official figures there is one job created for every 20 Ugandans who graduate from institutions of higher learning - means that there is going to be growing pressure on the government to explain appointments to top national jobs.

President's critics

President Museveni's critics have also questioned the growing influence of members of the First Family in national affairs. They refer to the fact that Gen. Salim Saleh advises his brother the President on defence matters, First Son Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba who commands the elite and powerful Special Forces and First Lady Janet who is junior minister in charge Karamoja region and MP for Ruhaama.

The First Family has repeatedly denied accusations of nepotism, arguing that their service to the country is a sacrifice. Asked in a BBC special African First Ladies' interview series last month on whether her husband is running Uganda like his personal business, Ms Museveni said: "I know that that is rubbish (and) I am sorry to say this, because he doesn't. If there is anybody who takes trouble to do everything by the law, it is my husband."

In the last part of the Opinion Poll Series tomorrow, read about Ugandans' views about the Electoral Commission, whether the 2011 election will be free and fair, and what is likely to happen should the result be disputed.