Need for an audit on institutional merger

It’s almost four years since government adopted the policy on merger of institutions to create different Boards.
Arthur Asiimwe.
Arthur Asiimwe.

It’s almost four years since government adopted the policy on merger of institutions to create different Boards.

The philosophy behind merging institution lies in the need to build synergies, optimize use of resources, avoid duplication of duties and ultimately lead to efficient delivery of services.

Seen as a commendable step for ensuring proper coordination of government functions, the decision to merge institutions was also hailed as an important step towards integrating institutions with almost similar functions but initially scattered under different entities.

It also was and remains an answer to reducing government’s expenditure on institutions that, in the past were independent budget entities and yet whose functions and mandate were similar in one way or another.

Taking the example of the proposed merger of all public universities under one university to illustrate how it reduces on government expenditure, you find that instead of having a hefty payroll for different rectors, vice-rectors, their assistants and other senior administrators, including the accruing benefits, the number would be reduced dramatically.

In addition, facilities like libraries and laboratories would be shared and so is the academic staff. All these factors combined creates an opportunity to optimize the use of government resources in a more constructive manner.

Nonetheless, though designed to build synergies and improve efficiency in institutional performance, there’s need for government to look back and examine whether these merged institutions have or are delivering on these expectations.

In other words, there’s need for government to carry out a clinical audit to examine whether these institutions have made forward or back-steps and if progress has been made, at what pace is it registered and could be underlying impediments?

Why am I saying this?

The little conversations I have held with a few fellows working within these merged institutions paints a not-so-much rosy picture. Of course, some of this criticism might be farfetched and exaggerated largely due to the fact that some individuals are resistant to change and especially when that change comes at times, with powers clipped.

But what is again evident is that in certain incidences, rather than reducing bureaucracy, the merger of institutions has increased it. For example, where it took one or two people to make a decision, it now takes five or so.

Where one or two months were a standard time for procuring a good or service, it now takes about three to four months. Where recruitment took a maximum of 35 days, it might now take close to 65 days because of the rigorous administrative processes. 

There seems to be a lot of time lost in debates, building consensus and nursing differing interests when it comes to decision-making.

Yet again, in other incidences, some key components of the institution’s new mandate are either given less attention or completely swallowed up or the main focus is lost---largely due to the huge nature or size of the institution.

In other circumstances, people want to hold on to their previous dockets. Here the essence of the merger only ends at creating the Board but in actual sense the merged institutions or departments still operate independent of each other.

Of course, and rightly so, you might blame it on the nature of man, who often a time, is resistant to change and would wish to hold on to what is in his/her possession. To a large extent, this could be true of our situation.  

This is why four years after the formation of the first merged institution, RDB in 2009, there’s need to carry out an audit on all merged institutions and examine whether the goals for these amalgamations have been realized, what needs to be fixed or adjusted and how to attain the desired outcomes.

In light with the fact that this policy is still new, some people might argue that we need to give it more time to test these institutions, but given the speed at which we have to move in order to implement EDPRS II, then we can’t afford institutions that might have a semblance of white elephant projects.

This is not to say that we need a shift in this policy. Not at all! The philosophy behind this policy feeds well into our development agenda and offers the best roadmap for revamping our institutions, some with a colonial mindset.  

But just like any new policy, there might be some loose nuts that we need to fix to ensure efficiency and delivery of the desired goals.

For this to happen, an audit or an evaluation of these institutions’ performance will set us on the right course for better performance.

Twitter @aasiimwe

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