A group of employees at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations that was placed under the Office of the President has petitioned the Speaker of Parliament seeking for intervention over the unfair treatment and unpaid salaries following the restructuring process.
Whereas in the past, the ministry was independent, it was in June moved to the Office of the President under the care of the State House Comptroller.
However, in the latest petition, the staffs say that the transition to the Office of the President has not been smooth and has since affected them.
“With no justification, we the staff at Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations have gone two months(July and August 2021) without salary and no formal communication has been made as to why our salaries are not paid,” the staff say in the petition dated August 31, 2021.
The group says that going two months without salary is not only illegal and a violation of their rights but has also caused anxiety, panic, untold suffering and uncertainty and consequently most of them have failed to pay bills like water, rent and electricity at their respective homes.
“The situation is so bad that even we cannot reach out financially to support each other in cases of death and hospitalization. We painfully lost one of our staff who suffered in hospital and his family could not afford medical bills,” the staff say.
The staff say that since the new minister, Dr. Monica Musenero and State House comptroller Jane Karekye took office, they have never communicated officially nor met staff at all levels, creating a vacuum that has led to speculation and anxiety.
“Consequently, the ministry has not held any statutory meetings such as top policy management and senior management meetings since the new management was announced.”
The staff also accuse management of locking them out of office as of an August, 16, 2021 directive by the head of security at the Ministry, one Assistant Inspector of Police Omoding and Alfred Andima Oyo, the ministry undersecretary.
They say they were told that staff were not allowed to access their offices.
Consequently, the Ministry of Science and Technology say on Tuesday, August 17 everyone who turned up was denied access up to date.
“This again is another illegal act as public offices are created by a resolution of cabinet of act of parliament as such a public office can only be closed with approval of the relevant authority,” the staff say in the petition.
The group says they cannot guarantee safety of government and their personal belongings inside their offices that have been locked.
According to the petition, the vehicles provided to some of the senior staff like commissioners to help them in transport have since been withdrawn without a clear explanation; move they say has further crippled them.
The staff say that in a July, 14 letter, Minister Musenero directed the Ministry of Finance to halt the transfer and expenditure of funds to the Ministry of Science and Technology a move they say has crippled the ministry and several works.
“This has not only affected the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, but also the subventions in the sector like Kira Motors Corporation, Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and the Banana Industrial Research and Development Centre. As a result, this has disrupted the implementation of government plans, programs and projects as appropriated by parliament.”
In the petition, the staff say that the new minister has adopted an administrative approach of assigning official public service duties to non-public service employees.
The staff cite a number of non public service employees who have on several occasions been assigned to represent government at various functions like meetings at continental and international level.
The move they say has created a situation of not only illegality but also uncertainty.
“This tantamounts to false assumption of public authority and impersonation as public officers which contravenes section 91 and 92 of the Penal Code Act.This has rendered the existing government staff at Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation redundant and fairly irrelevant.”
The Ministry of Science and Technology staff have however in their petition asked that the new minister meets them to communicate the way forward.
“Our prayer is that the Ministry of Public Service prepares and implements a transition roadmap based on relevant laws and procedures to ensure a smooth transition,” the group says.
They also say that the transition should consider their views as staff and those of other key stakeholders in order to deal with the confusion and uncertainty.
“Our prayer is that government expedites payment of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation salaries to relieve them of the financial pressure currently being experienced.”
When contacted for a comment, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation admitted the staff have not yet received their salaries but was quick to say that the matter is being sorted by the Ministry of Public Service.
“My advice is that this is a change decided by the head of the country. However, myself, the State House comptroller, Public Service and the Ministry of Finance are doing our best to handle everything. We should all work together(with staff) for the new entity but as soon as funds transfer is done, all their salaries will be paid,”Musenero told the Nile Post in a phone interview.
The minister however dismissed claims that she has not met the group , adding that staff at all levels have been met and explained to, what is happening.
“Have they told you that I met them on zoom? I met the technical staff online whereas the directors were met physically,” she noted.
According to Minister Musenero, Public Service too, held a meeting with all the staff and gave a direction on what is being done, adding that none has been locked out of office.
“The ministry was abolished and the process of taking the vote to a new accounting officer is what is delaying everything. This is just being uncooperative. They have not been locked out of office but it was closed(due to Covid) and only minimu number of staff is allowed.”
“We handed over during time of covid and only 10% staff was allowed and because we were in transition, we prioritized people who were in essential. Those people are more than the 10% allowed. We gave them an option that if you want to access, you go to the undersecretary and allows you into office.”
Minister Musenero insisted that all the required procedures and laws are being followed to handle the issue but urged the staff to be calm.
“I don’t know why they are trying to blame the minister. They are people that I want to work with but even if I approached them, public service has to inform them of the process. Everybody who attended the zoom meeting knows this,” she added.
The staff however say that if the closure of office was normal because of the pandemic, it should have been communicated through normal procedures rather than allegedly doing it through SFC officers to have the staff out .