East African Science and Technology Commission urge regional parliament's help in soliciting funds

Officials at the Kigali-based East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) on Friday implored visiting members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to help with its inadequate funding challenge.

Officials at the Kigali-based East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) on Friday implored visiting members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to help with its inadequate funding challenge.

They requested for lawmakers’ advocacy in strengthening the Commission and for more investments in science, technology and innovation (STI) as the key drivers and enablers to accelerate and sustain regional socio-economic transformation.

The lawmakers who on Friday concluded a two-week on-spot assessment of institutions, installations and facilities of the EAC on the Central Corridor and Northern Corridor visited the EASTECO headquarters in Kigali to get a firsthand assessment of the institution.

Its overall objective is to promote and coordinate the development, management and application of science and technology to support regional integration and socio-economic development but according to officials, it fears it will not meet its targets.

Dr. Saidi Kibeya, the institution’s deputy executive secretary, on Friday told EALA members that inadequate funds and lack of staff for programmatic activities were key challenges facing the institution.

Dr. Kibeya said: “The approved budget proved to be inadequate to cover major activities. Delay in achieving the EASTECO mandate as per specific objectives in the Protocol [of the latter’s establishment] due to lack of technical or professional staff is another challenge.”

The protocol on establishment of EASTECO was signed on April 18, 2007.

He said that the Commission needs an increase in: professional staff with its organigram; and adequate budget from partner states’ contributions, for activities.

Funded by equal contributions from EAC partner states, the Commission’s 2017/18 budget is $1.5 million.

The whole amount was meant to go into having, among others, the regional science and technology policy developed, but as of January 31, 2018, the Commission had received $559, 972 – 37 percent of the total budget – as the only contribution from partner states.

Burundi has not made any contribution in the current financial year but is said to be clearing arrears. New EAC member, South Sudan, too has not yet injected any money or staff in the Commission. Delays in funding also led to under-absorption in most cases.

Luckily, however, in February, they received an extra $200,000 grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The Commission which currently occupies rented offices on one of the wings on the second floor of Telecom House with 279 square meters of office space does not have enough space.

According to, Odeth Bateta, the EASTECO Principal Administrative Officer, the Commission applied to Rwandan authorities for land and is in the process of acquiring land to build its own headquarters.

The protocol on establishment of EASTECO, however, also has shortcomings such as lack of segregation of functions of the Secreariat from that of the Commission, not defining the functions of the Board of Directors as well as too many Board members which causes operational challenges.

Bateta said that the institution has initiated the process of amendment of the Protocol “but the process is slow.”

Besides the funding challenge, Bateta also noted that the lengthy recruitment process and unclear channel of communication from EAC institutions to the EAC Ad hoc service Commission, is another nagging issue.

She too reiterated the request for the regional Assembly to support them in acquiring funds for staffing and other needs as well as support in putting in place clear and short recruitment processes.

MP Mathias Kasamba (Uganda) said partner states need to style up as regards their financial contributions to the Community’s key institutions.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

ADVERTISEMENT