After a prolonged struggle of patience and determination, the ministry of Finance has finally approved Shs 3bn meant to pay the gratuity of Kyambogo University’s retired staff.
The Observer has learned that several retirees are heavily indebted and waiting on this money while some passed on without receiving their token of appreciation for their years of service to the university.
While addressing the media on the state of the university last week, Kyambogo University vice chancellor Prof Eli Katunguka said the university management had consistently budgeted for the gratuity money but suffered shortfalls. In a letter dated October 2, 2023, to all accounting officers from the Finance ministry about the supplementary expenditure and statutory revisions for the financial year 2023/24, the money has finally been reinstated.
Katunguka said the management has reviewed the details and work plans on the Program Budgeting System (PBS) and once this is approved by the ministry of Finance, the university shall embark on warranting at least Shs 1.49bn to effect payments of gratuity.
Whereas Katunguka commended the government for this gesture which will alleviate the hardships faced by some retired staff members, the Shs 3bn approved cash is a drop in the ocean.
“Government institutions are grossly underfunded and from time to time we approach the government for more money. This gratuity money is not enough as it doesn’t cover everybody. The total amount required to pay the 59 staff is Shs 5.2bn. So, we may start with covering those who retired first or pay them a percentage to ensure that everybody gets something,” Katunguka said.
He added: “The university management will sit and agree on a payment plan. Nevertheless, we thank the government for this money because universities don’t have pension schemes like those who work in public service. We rely on these one-off gratuity payments to send off staff with dignity.”
The chairperson of the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTSEF), Jackson Betihamah, said it is unbearable for someone to serve an institution and walk away empty-handed.
“This is very miserable and that’s why you find people dying early into retirement. Gratuity is one of the motivators for workers. If someone is going to retire, there should be a plan for their exit. The government has liberalized the retiring system whereby they are calling for various stakeholders to come in and motivate their staff,” Betihamah said.
He explained that whereas Kyambogo’s retired staff are due for payment, there are some institutions without internal gratuity policies which continues to demotivate staff. He urged public university management, especially in newly established universities, to put in place favorable retirement policies with gratuity such that people retire honorably in the public.
WAGE BILL STILL LOW
Meanwhile, Katunguka expressed concern over limitations in the university’s wage bill that has left several positions without substantive officers. He said while some staff are retiring, their roles are taken over by people in acting capacities.
“There are people who qualify to be senior lecturers but we are under instructions from the Finance ministry not to appoint or promote anyone unless we have the money to pay them. We have held meetings with Finance about wage shortages and we have been told to wait for the ongoing government payroll verification exercise to end,” he said.
Recently, Kyambogo conducted an election of deans and heads of departments whose report is due to be presented to top management. All faculties/schools got substantive deans except the School of Built Environment and the Institute of Distance Learning, E-learning, and Learning Centers.
With more than 30,000 students, the university structure has only 59 heads of departments. There were no nominations from 36 departments for the position of head of department because there were no qualifying candidates as several staff had not been promoted to the required levels.
To head a department, one must be at the senior lecturer level. Accordingly, the university electoral commission recommended that the vice chancellor appoint academic staff in an acting capacity to fill these vacant positions.