Who to blame for mess in teachers’ payroll?

Uganda-Teacher
Issues at hand. Teachers discuss their welfare during a meeting at Teachers House in Kampala

Mr Bosco Okao Omee borrowed Shs1.6m last year to clear his daughter’s school fees as she prepared to sit for Uganda Certificate of Education exams.

The Alicemera Primary School teacher had not received his salary for two months then and his daughter’s exams were only weeks away. Without an option, he had to go for a loan that was to be recovered from his salary for three years.

A year later, Mr Omee gets his pay slip with Shs128,000 loan deduction, but his bank account is not credited with the balance.
Mr Omee earns only Shs537, 000 per month. To sort out the mess, Mr Omee has frequented the offices of Amolator District chief administrative officer, the education officer, human resource and personnel officer without a solution.

Frustration
“I have a loan. When you go where I got the loan from, they say they are getting the loan deductions from my salary but the balance doesn’t get to my account. I have written letters to all offices seeking to get my salary. Authorities tell me to be patient. I don’t know how much patience they need from me. It is so hard. Even my children are not going to school. They have been chased because I can’t pay their fees. I am not motivated to work. I just go there without concentration,” Mr Omee said.

The Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu) general secretary, Mr Filbert Baguma, puts the number of teachers who have missed their salaries or have been paid half of their earnings at 2,000.

He said their efforts to get a solution from government officials have hit a snag as they give several excuses, including hiding behind the supplier number, TIN (Tax Identification Number) and the Integrated Personnel Payment System.

“The dilemma is on these processes that have become so bureaucratic and bring the same blame game. They say its local government, when you inquire from local government, they refer you to Public Service, who also refer you to ministries of Education and Finance,” Mr Baguma said.

The Amolator District Education officer, Ms Josephine Achen, said in one of their senior management meetings, they had asked the human resource officer, Mr Tony Dongole, to take keen interest in the matter of the affected teachers and have them paid. When Ms Achen inquired a month later on the progress, Mr Dongole informed her there were teachers who were supposed to verify their supplier and TINs before they could be paid.

“The list of teachers who have not been paid was compiled. There are people who needed to verify their supplier and TINs. But even those who verified have been paid,” Ms Achen said.

But another teacher at Burakwana Primary School in Amolator District, Mr Morris Ekong, told Daily Monitor that although they continue to deduct Shs179,000 every month to recover a loan from his salary, he has not been getting his balance of Shs258,000 since October last year.

“I have filled several forms, went to the DEO, CAO, district chairman but up to now, there is no salary. I get my pay slip. Sometimes they say there is a problem with our supplier number, sometimes they say it is the TIN, other times they say the problem is with Finance ministry. They tell us they are also struggling to put us back on payroll,” he said.

But Public Service ministry spokesperson, Mr Joseph Ngobi, said the different numbers are to help identify individual employees.
“It is a biometric system so that we don’t pay ghosts. I agree the numbers are too many but we hope if National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira) completes giving each Ugandan a national identity card, things will change. That is when we should do away with the many numbers. As of now, they are operational whether you are a new recruit or have been in service,” Mr Ngobi said.

But he questioned how loans are being recovered from teachers’ salaries without them getting the balance.

“How do you deduct a loan if you cannot access salary? It cannot happen because you cannot get any salary without a supplier number. We have heard reports that local governments never give employees the right information even when they have it. It is not the first time we are hearing of these reports. I do not know what is happening,” Mr Ngobi said.

Fort portal case
Mr Baguma said teachers in Fort Portal have not been paid since June, while head teachers and their deputies in Iganga, Mubende, Mukono and Bugiri municipalities have received only half salary.
“The people in authority are giving excuses that it is a system error. For the case of Fort Portal, there was mismanagement of funds. They had shortfall from June and up to now, a number of teachers miss salary every month. There has come another challenge of head teachers and deputies whose salaries have been slashed. It started in July to date,” Mr Baguma said.

“It is difficult to pay a loan installment without receiving a salary because deductions are made on receiving one’s salary. This means there is a fishy deal in that district and we need to investigate further,” he said.