Uganda Tourism agencies absorbed by parent Ministry in major restructuring

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The Government of Uganda announced the restructuring of major government agencies following a statement by the Minister of ICT and National Guidence, Frank K. Tumwebaze, during a news conference at the Media Mentre in Kampala, held on September 11, 2018.

This follows a decision to review the structure of government following a Cabinet meeting chaired by Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni at State House in Entebbe.

The affected tourism agencies include the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda Wildlife Authority, and Uganda Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary which shall be merged in specialized departments under the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.

They shall initially be housed under one roof at the current UWA headquarters as they await construction of the ‘Tourism House’ recently approved. Currently all tourism agencies with exception of UWA and UWEC have to budget expenditure for recurrent expenditure including rent of office space.

Justifying the rationale for disbanding agencies, the Permanent Secretay (PS) Ministry of Public Service, Catherine Bitarakwate, said, “The decision to disband a number of agencies and merge others will save close to a trillion Uganda Shillings which has been spent on wages, operations, and rent.”

Consideration shall be taken where certain agencies that have technical functions that it has been running shall remain.

For now, It remains business as usual at UTB, for example, which has several international engagements including the start of the expo season from Magical Kenya, JATA – Japan, and WTM London, etc. PR firms in the English- and German-speaking source markets have already lined up road shows in November in Germany.

At the same time, the Ministry of Tourism is in the process of overseeing the formation of the Uganda Convention Bureau originally proposed under UTB.

The government has been tinkering with a merger of the tourism agencies since 2001, barely halfway into their first decade of formation, only to rescind, leaving some employees falling out (including yours truly) or others simply resigned to playing a wait-and-see attitude.

The hammer finally fell after several empty threats when ironically UTB probably used to government’s “sing song” had just concluded a restructuring process which saw long-serving employees shown the door after more than 20 years of service.

For UTB, the timing of their dissolution could not be worse since most employees had already been terminated.

Assurances by the Public Service Head that all those jobs attract a compensation including those who have been made redundant may be farfetched not least for the newly-appointed staff who had just received appointment letters.

The dim respite is that agency heads and staffers who wish to be absorbed in the Ministries will be given the opportunity to apply.

Whereas the move has been heralded by some sections of the public including legislators and policy analysis, some private sector sentiments in tourism including Godfrey Baluku of Trek East Africa who says whereas the merger has advantages, merging these agencies into ministries may just increase unnecessary “red tape.”

In years to come, the government may rescind full circle, just as they did when they created these agencies two decades ago.

Rationalization excerpt:

(i) To align the functions, structures, plans and budgets of Government Institutions based on National strategic goals and priorities for efficiency in the provision of public services;

(ii) To eliminate functional ambiguities, duplications and overlaps among Government Institutions;

(iii) To eliminate wasteful expenditures in Agencies, Commissions and Authorities with a view to allocating those resources to other priority areas for socio-economic development of the country;

(iv) To harmonize wages between employees of Agencies, Commissions and Authorities and traditional Public Service in order to improve motivation of Public Officers; and

(v) To streamline the legal and institutional frameworks to ensure the retained Agencies, Commission and Authorities are well aligned and more accountable to the citizens and mainstream Government Ministries.