Dr Atwine frustrated by non-performing Commissioners in Ministry of Health

Dr Diana Atwine
The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine has expressed frustration over the continued poor performance of commissioners in the ministry. She says that the commissioners continue being promoted automatically without a review.

Dr Atwine who was speaking on Saturday during a meeting organized by an NGO Center for Advanced Strategic Leadership (CASTLE) said that her efforts to get rid of non-performers has resulted in her being dragged to court.

She says when she suspended some senior officials that she couldn’t reveal, she was instead taken to court.

According to Dr Atwine, rather than giving people permanent and pensionable jobs, public service procedures should change to contracts that can be renewed with good performance.

Dr Atwine says that as a short term remedy, they want to digitize performance management such that when a person signs in and reports to work, they can track their performance online without having to visit work stations physically.

She said the plan was to start this process with the regional referral hospitals although she adds automation has not received support from those that are supposed to implement it.

However, Jacob Simunyi, the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who attended the meeting said digitization alone cannot guarantee results saying it is cosmetic and unfruitful.

“Take the URA online services for instance, they are almost impossible to work with. They seem to be wired to fail the client so that they are forced to hire agents who work as intermediaries at a cost. The same could be said for passport applications under Ministry of Internal Affairs,” he said, urging that if automation is adopted, there should be mechanisms to ensure that they work and are not merely cosmetic cover-ups.”

However, the planned digitalization is not the first attempt to make health workers and public servants perform. Already, health facilities are fitted with biometric fingerprint technology to track reporting to work with funding from donors.

But Dr Atwine says the issue is not just reporting to work but what they do when they report. She says that many doctors on duty are glued on social media as queues of patients wait to see them, the same thing happening at the ministry headquarters.

The COVID-19 pandemic that came with limiting personal interactions and encouraging people to work from home, she says has particularly hurt her ministry as officials show up for only a few hours and spend time on social media and reading newspapers.

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Sharifah Buzeki, the Commissioner Public Service Inspection and Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Public Service said they are required to conduct performance reviews of public servants every quarter but this has been challenged by the fact people have now been working remotely.

She said they are currently discussing how well they can monitor people who work from home because performance management was added to areas for audit starting last financial year.

According to figures by the Ministry of Public Service, in just one year since performance management was made an audit area, an inspection of employee performance has improved from 53% to 85%.

However, Buzeki says hiring on contract as suggested by Atwiine is one of the things being explored by her ministry.