Good News With Mbabazi Out: What About Museveni And Bloated Government?

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Gen. Museveni, one step ahead of fired Prime Minister Mbabazi, on his left

Discussions on the sacking of Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi in Uganda press have been misplaced.

Uganda does no need a Prime Minister. In any event, that post is not provided for in the 1995 Uganda Constitution.

Article 112(1) of the 1995 Uganda Constitution provides that Cabinet meetings shall be summoned and presided over by the President and in his absence by the Vice-President or in the absence of both, by a Minister designated in writing by the President.

There are no references to a Prime Minister or his three deputies – the first, second and third deputy Prime Ministers, to preside over a cabinet meeting or indeed sit in the cabinet as a member.

Article 113(2) of the same Constitution limits the total number of Cabinet Ministers to 21 and it can only be increased beyond that number with the approval of Parliament. The total number of other ministers is regulated by Article 114(3) of the Constitution and shall not exceed 21 except with the approval of Parliament.

Currently Uganda has 70 Ministers and Deputy Ministers, 100 Presidential Advisors, 120 Resident District Commissioners (RDC) and a further 120 Deputy Resident District Commissioners (DRDC).

By any world standard, Uganda has a huge cabinet, Presidential Advisors and RDCs. Why has Uganda Parliament allowed President Museveni to create the post of Prime Minister with three deputies? What is the job description of the Prime Minister which entitles him to three deputies?

What is the relationship, if any, between the job descriptions of the Vice-President and that of the Prime Minister?

Parliament has a lot of explaining to do to Ugandan tax payers. For example, why has Parliament permitted Museveni to increase the numbers of Cabinet Ministers and other ministers to beyond 21 as stipulated in the 1995 Uganda Constitution?

Why can’t Parliament make public, President Museveni’s motivations and reasons for requesting the increase of numbers of Cabinet Ministers and other ministers beyond the stipulated numbers of 21 and their reasons for approving the requests?

Besides the legal arguments, there are equally weighty political and economic reasons for the position of Prime Minister and his deputies to be abolished and the numbers of Cabinet Ministers and other ministers to be reduced.

Economic and developmental experts generally agree that there is a correlation between an expansion in the size of the government --reflected by an increase in its expenditure-- and a decline in private investment and economic growth.  It is common sense that the bigger the cabinet and higher the numbers of government bureaucrats, the more expensive for the tax payers to maintain them in both salaries and allowances.

Generally, an excessively large national government has a negative effect on economic growth. In other words, there is a negative relationship between growth in government and the rate of economic growth.

What appears to be economic growth in Uganda is misleading. Real economic growth is minimal while what passes for growth is the donor contributions, including grants and other subsidies, as for example, budget support, health and social services as well as other government expenditure notwithstanding that most of the money is stolen as was the case with funds stolen by Prime Minister Mbabazi’s office.

Thus, in real terms, these donations are not part of the country’s economic growth.

Significantly, as a government grows in size, it crowds out investment, leads to a decline in productivity growth and contributes to a slowdown in the growth rate of its real GDP.

Similarly, economies with large public sectors grow more slowly and suffer high rates of unemployment than those where this is not the case. On the other hand, countries with relatively small governments tend to perform better than their counterparts with relatively big governments. This is not rocket science. Any member of Uganda’s Parliament who voted to create the position of Prime Minister, three deputies and more than 21 cabinet ministers and other ministers should be able to appreciate this elementary economics.

Uganda’s Members of Parliament are urged to recognize that a smaller, qualified and better focused government is better able to deliver services to the tax pay, the poor and the elderly than a big government.

By abusing his powers as President, Museveni has continued to mortgage our country by borrowing heavily from both local and external sources of funds in order to sustain government operations and his lavish life styles. It is particularly worrying that Museveni, after 28 years in power, has continued to rely on the support of the donor community, by selling Uganda’s resources in advance without a thought about future generations, and without reflecting on what Uganda will do when such donor support gets disrupted by changes in the donor communities’ priorities or when the time for re-payment comes when Uganda is not ready.

Shall we, as a country, default, and if so, what would be the consequences for the generation that have neither borrowed, nor benefited from, the funds?

One of the reasons why Museveni’s government has absolutely failed to address the socio-economic problems Ugandans are currently facing is the country’s bloated government structures and state- approved corruption. Museveni does not need to send his daughter to Germany to deliver on tax payers’ money, as he did, when she can do it at any clinic in Uganda. Otherwise why does the country have a ministry of Health with several ministers?

To address these problems in the short-term requires that government structures are streamlined. 

First: the office of the Prime Minister and his three deputies must be abolished in line with the letter and spirit of the 1995 Uganda Constitution.

Second: the number of Cabinet Ministers must be reduced to 15 and that of other ministers to 7, thus reducing the numbers of ministers to a manageable level of 22.

There isn’t space to explain the rationale for the reduction, but given time and space, it can be done.

Three: all positions of Presidential Advisors must be abolished, instead a Think-Tank, comprising men and women who are experts in their respective fields shall provide the necessary advise and reasoned opinions. 

Fourth: the number of districts must be reduced to 30, and the position of Resident District Commissioners abolished and replaced with elected and not appointed District Commissioners. It is recommended that all positions of Deputy Resident District Commissioners are abolished.

The above changes shall not only improve governance but also reduce costs and ensure that corrupt officials such as Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa never represent Uganda again in any forum let alone the United Nations General Assembly.

In the long term, Museveni and his cronies must depart and let Ugandans manage their country and plan for a bright future for the young generations and save them from poverty and debt burdens.

 

Obote-Odora is a lawyer and international consultant

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