The East African Community Secretariat has now drawn funds from the gratuity fund to pay staff salaries for June, says a well-placed source in Arusha, underlining the poor state of funding of the bloc.
There has been concern about low budget support by partner states, which has been blamed for the stalling of several programmes. Some members of staff are said to be fuelling official vehicles out of their own pockets.
According to budget documents, the EAC is about $100 million in arrears for the 2018/19 fiscal year, blamed on outstanding debt of partner states.
A member of staff who spoke to The EastAfrican said that there was a delay in salary payments last month, but it was paid on June 28, “which is not bad.” Salaries are usually paid on the 23rd every month.
It is understood that the raiding of the gratuity fund was sanctioned by the Council of Ministers after Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko wrote to ask for permission.
During the debate that led to the passing of the budget for the 2019/20 budget at the East African Legislative Assembly, members said the organs and institutions of the Community were operating “under difficult conditions,” citing the House itself, which has been struggling to pay salaries and other lawmakers’ dues on time.
“Contributions from partner states have been declining year in year out, while organs and institutions of the community keep increasing,” said Habib Mohamed Mnyaa, an MP from Tanzania.
He recalled that the last time the partner states came close to fulfilling their budgetary obligations was in the 2014/15 fiscal year, when they contributed $24,690,625, over 90 per cent of the budget, to the coffers.
Even if the partner states met their quotas, Mr Mnyaa said, a large chunk of it goes into salaries and other staff perks.
Mr Mnyaa cited EALA itself, which spends 43.8 per cent of its allocation on emoluments.
Rose Akol, an MP from Uganda, said that EALA was underperforming partly due to staff shortages, blamed on the lack of a mandate to recruit.
“There is only one staffer in the Hansard Department,” she said. “I recall $1 million was once allocated for only one staff member in one of the EAC entities; it’s absurd.”
The hiring of staff and renewal of contracts for about 60 short-term staffers has been put on hold.
The contracts were not renewed on July 1, as expected, following a directive by the 38th Meeting of the Council.
South Sudan and Burundi have been the main defaulters of contributions to the bloc.
Kenya and Tanzania, who are the best performers in remittances, have lately slowed down their payments to express their displeasure with the other partners’ performance.
“Nairobi and Dar es Salaam wonder why they rush to pay up while others like Burundi and South Sudan joyride,” said the source.
“So they are also taking a back seat because all partner states are equal, but there are members who don’t want to pay yet want to enjoy equal benefits.”
This means that some activities of the EAC organs and institutions are likely to stall or slow down.
For instance, the meeting of the Sectoral Council on Political Affairs, which was set for Nairobi in the last week of June, failed to take place and has been pushed to August.
Others activities postponed to August include the meeting to receive the audit report of last year and consider new programmes for 2019, and the meeting of Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs that was scheduled for the end of July.
But there is hope, after EALA passed the EAC budget of $111.4 million for the 2019/20 financial year.
In March, when it approved a $12 million supplementary budget, Burundi and South Sudan had not remitted their full contributions for the 2018/19 financial year.
The partner states are expected to finance the budget, with ministries of EAC affairs contributing $49.7 million, while ministries responsible for education and fisheries are expected to provide $4.3 million and $2 million respectively.
Development partners are expected to support the Community to the tune of $54 million, with the money going directly to specific projects.
The EAC Secretariat consumes the majority of the budget—about $53.2 million, EALA $18.9 million; The East African Court of Justice has been allocated $4.2 million and the Inter-University Council for East Africa $9.5 million.
The Council of Ministers has not yet advised the Summit on alternative avenues of funding.