Some staff of the East African Community Secretariat staff have deserted their workstations as a cash crunch continues to bite due to delayed remittances by the partner states.
A spot-check by The EastAfrican in Arusha established that some stations remain unmanned, with a number of foreign staff moving back to their countries of origin.
The Secretariat has recently faced difficulties in paying salaries and allowances while some programmes have had to be suspended.
The East African Court of Justice, for example, has suspended the August session of the Appellate Division because of lack of funds. And July salaries for the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) were yet to be paid by press time.
In the current financial year, each of the six partner states is supposed to contribute $8,371,320. But they all have outstanding remittances with Burundi and South Sudan having not paid up at all.
The July salaries were drawn from money paid by Uganda to cover arrears for the 2018/19 financial year.
So bad has the situation been that on August 2, Steven Mlote, deputy Secretary-General in charge of Planning, Infrastructure, Finance and Administration, sent a memo to staff informing them that payment of their education and spouse allowances for the 2019/20 financial year will be delayed due to the liquidity problem.
“We wish to inform you that the payment of education and spouse allowances will be delay ed due to the liquidity situation. We apologise for the inconvenience and undue financial burden this may have caused you.
“We are doing all we can to engage the partner states to ensure contributions are remitted the soonest possible. We strongly believe this minor setback will be over in a short while,” said Mr Mlote in the memo seen by The EastAfrican.
Due to the liquidity problem, June salaries were paid from the gratuity fund after the Secretariat sought the intervention of the Council of Ministers.
Sources in Arusha told The EastAfrican that morale among staff at the Secretariat has run low and some have opted to return home while others have taken leave.
But EAC Secretary-General, Liberat Mfumukeko downplayed the situation, attributing the absence of most staff to leave or “foreign duty.”
But he conceded that the Secretariat has seen a drop in remittances in the past seven years.
The arrears amount to about $30 million, and Mr Mfumukeko said the management has had to adjust its expenditure according to the available funds.
By June this year, Uganda had an outstanding contribution of over $2 million; Burundi $6.3 million; Kenya $160,653, Rwanda over $1 million, South Sudan $19.3 million and Tanzania $957,832.
“In the past three years, I have reduced travel expenditure by over 40 per cent,” he said, “but donors contributions have increased by over five per cent.”
The EAC budget comes from contributions from partner states—which fund the operations of its organs and development partners who support specific programmes.
The EAC budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year amounts to $111.4 million, of which $53,296,404 was allocated to the secretariat, $18,973,845 to Eala and $4,225,24 to the EACJ.
Development partners are expected to support the Community to the tune of $54 million, with the money going directly to specific projects.
Partner states and other miscellaneous sources are supposed to contribute 52 per cent of the budget, amounting to $57.4 million.
Burundi owes the Inter-University Council of East Africa over $5.6 million for 2017/18 and earlier; Kenya $6,168; Rwanda $2.8 million; South Sudan $2.1 million; Tanzania $2.4 million; and Uganda $3.4 million.
Outstanding contributions to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation for 2017/18 and earlier for Kenya stood at $599 by June this year, Tanzania at over $1 million, Uganda at $350,908 and South Sudan at $345,083.
Dr James Njagu, chief of staff said that the Secretariat usually starts receiving disbursements from partner states from August, but national processes often affect disbursement.
“This is occasioned by the budgeting processes and approvals in the partner states that in some cases, takes up to three months after the commencement of the financial year,” he said.
Dr Njagu said that in the medium to the long-term, the EAC is working on a sustainable financing mechanism for the bloc.
—Additional reporting by Patty Magubira.