The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) has expressed concern over the staffing challenges plaguing the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC&DB).
During a recent meeting, COSASE discovered several alarming issues. Some employees have been occupying acting positions beyond the legally stipulated time frame, while others were hired unlawfully, causing the staff count to surge from the approved 333 to an inflated 453.
Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, the Chairperson of COSASE, remarked, “The entity is facing significant understaffing issues; junior employees are currently occupying positions of those who have been suspended pending court cases. Prolonged court battles can’t be predicted, and after three years, this situation is unsustainable.”
The committee convened to review the Auditor General’s Report on NAGRC&DB for the Financial Year 2021/2022 on Wednesday, 23 August 2023. The report unveiled another disturbing fact: over the past three years, 17 managers were relieved of their responsibilities, and junior officers were appointed acting roles.
Referring to Section 9 of the Uganda Public Service Standing Orders, Ssenyonyi highlighted that an individual can only serve in an acting capacity for up to six months. “Any period of acting appointment beyond six months shall automatically revert to his or her substantive post unless the appointing authority extends the appointment for another six months, but shall not exceed 12 months,” reads Section 9 of the Public Service Standing Orders.
The committee’s concerns extended to the organization’s response to staffing gaps. It was revealed that NAGRC&DB opted to hire casual staff to fill these gaps, even though the Ministry of Public Service had issued a recent circular prohibiting further recruitment.
Addressing this, Hon. Richard Gafabusa (NRM, Bwamba County) questioned, “Despite being aware of the Ministry of Public Service circular, you proceeded with staff recruitment during the financial year under review. Can you explain this contradiction?”
Gafabusa further noted, “Your staffing structure was approved for 333 staff, but the audit report now indicates a total of 453 staff. This 120-staff excess is concerning. How did this discrepancy arise, and how are these additional employees remunerated?”
Dr Peter Beine, the Executive Director of NAGRC&DB, responded, explaining that the entity was compelled to hire casual staff due to the expansion of animal stocks and farms, coupled with limited staffing resources. He added, “We engaged the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Service regarding filling the pending technical positions, but were informed it wasn’t feasible. As a result, the board decided to balance the deficit of technical staff by hiring more non-technical personnel.”
Beine revealed that the majority of casual staff were earning Shs 300,000 per month. “In some instances, the combined salary of 15 herdsmen is equivalent to the salary of a single technical staff member,” he stated.
The committee emphasized that an organization tasked with enhancing the commercialization and productivity of animal breeding activities cannot be effectively operated by support staff alone. Dr. Beine was advised to confer with the board to address the void left by the absence of the 17 technical staff members.
Ssenyonyi concluded, “We assert that the organization is currently not functioning at its full potential due to a lack of essential expertise. We encourage the board to make a decisive resolution – either to replace these staff members or reinstate them if a favourable court ruling is achieved. Operating in this manner, especially if the legal process drags on for years, is unsustainable.”