Faulty online payment system cuts salaries of local govt workers

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Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Cold chain technicians and statisticians are expressing concerns about the functionality of the Human Capital Management System (HCMS), currently being introduced by the Ministry of Public Service to automate HR processes.

Although the new online payment system (HCMS) is still pending implementation in some districts, Joseph Kiwanuka Kakande, a statistician from Jinja, reports widespread issues where the system is in use. Despite clear salary specifications in their appointment letters, Kakande notes discrepancies in payment, with individuals in the same position across different districts receiving varying salaries.

Complaints lodged with the Ministry of Public Service have not yielded resolution, and Kakande emphasizes that the response received was that the system determines payments, leaving little room for corrective action.

This sentiment is echoed by Ivan Nalungu, a Cold Chain Technician in Kumi district. Nalungu highlights consistent challenges dating back to 2017, where discrepancies in payment were experienced under the Programme Budgeting System for salaries. Despite being entitled to a U-5 medical salary, Nalungu has consistently received a U–6 salary, contrary to established public service standing orders.

“It is so hurting for someone to earn Shs430,000.” He said this is against public service standing order, which states that any cold chain technician who enters government payroll with a diploma should be on a salary scale of U5,” Mr Ivan Nalungu said.

Efforts to rectify the problem over the past five years have proven futile, leading workers, supported by Hassan Mudiba, the General Secretary of the Uganda Local Government Workers Union (ULGWU), to consider legal action. The planned petition aims to secure court orders for the reimbursement of workers affected by the inaccuracies in the IT system.

“We demand that an order for payment of salary arrears to all affected members of the union whose salaries were reduced without administrative due process and all those who are being paid a lower scale contrary to appointment letters be issued to that effect,” Mr Hassan Mudiba Lwabayi , the ULGWU’s general secretary, said.

He added: “The newly introduced Human Capital Management System has illegally and unlawfully reduced salaries of cold chain officers and their assistants by placing them under administration, in spite of them being under the district health officers on appointment. The said system has also illegally and unlawful taken away remuneration of statisticians.”

Mudiba emphasizes that while government-initiated systems like HCMS intend to address bureaucratic challenges, they must align with existing laws and policies. The union had initially reported these discrepancies to the Ministry of Public Service on March 20th, 2023, without receiving a response.

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For example, cold chain technicians earn an equivalent of Shs 2.2m under U5 per month but under the new payment system, they are being paid on the scale of U6 Upper, which is equivalent of Shs 1.5m, according to Mr Mudiba.

The other example he gave was that of cold chain assistants appointed under salary scale of U7, who are supposed to earn a gross of Shs1.4m per month with a net pay of about Shs 1m but in the new payment system, this category is now earning Shs 268,143.

Despite the phased implementation of HCMS since its 2023 launch, the Ministry of Public Service intends to integrate it with other government payment systems, including the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS), Programme Budgeting System (PBS), National Identification System (NID), and Payroll Deductions Management System (PDMS).