Tension and anger is brewing at the newly occupied URA Towers as it downed on staff that their top management had mid December, 2018 under the cover of the festive season and closure of the 1st half of the tax collection year, stealthily rushed an ill prepared report to the Board of Directors seeking replacement of the current policy that requires top management from the rank of Assistant Commissioners to serve only two terms of 5(five) years length with renewable contracts with no limits as to terms.
It is imperative to note that the report was stealthily presented to the Board in the absence of the substantive Commissioner General who had earlier vehemently opposed the same.
The ill prepared paper was intended to take advantage of Akol’s (pictured above) absence to do away with contract term limitations basing on unsubstantiated claims that the institution was losing talent upon expiry of top manager’s contracts.
In a bid to hoodwink the rest of the staff, the top managers threw in a bait proposal to extend the retirement age in the URA from 55 to 60 years. However, given the linear nature of the institution, the staff have quickly deciphered the move to be a double benefit for the top managers since top management positions will effectively be out of bounds for a very long time if the current contract limitations are lifted.
The news has shocked the staff whose morale is said to be plummeting to new lows and is likely to adversely affect the tax collection targets for the next half of the year spilling into the subsequent years unless sanity is restored by the Board by rejecting the selfish proposal.
The Staff have on condition of anonymity confided that there is a wealth of talented subordinates both in officer and middle management cadre who are adequately trained and with sufficient experience to take over from the current top management in line with established policies.
The Staff have also raised a very critical argument regarding the structure of the organization. They contend that URA is linear in nature without enough career progression opportunities within the organization. In effect, the institution is in H.R terms ‘bottom heavy’. In linear institutions, the staff motivation for career progression is that top management positions are duration capped hence creating occasional and periodical opportunities arising from such departures of senior management. Indeed since the establishment of URA, there have been such periodical departures without a leadership vacuum being created at any one time unless the current crop of top management contend that their leadership has not matched that of their predecessor’s to augment their argument of loss of talent. To therefore propose indefinite contract terms for some top managers whilst those of the CEO and the Board are capped is not only unrealistic but treacherous and laced with selfishness since it is insensitive to the severely constricted organizational pipeline and is a recipe for unhealthy competition and catastrophic innovations of compelling the top managers out of the institution.
Statistics availed indicate that URA has heavily spent on training its personnel and is indeed one of the few institutions with a surplus pool of well trained and capable personnel only waiting for opportunities to put the knowledge to desired use.
Contrary to the top manager’s argument that loss of talent is due to what they conveniently term as restrictive contracts, the truth of the matter is that the current escalating attrition rate of staff leaving URA can be attributed to lack of or inadequate career progression. It is indeed the practice of some of the current top management to stifle the long established process of succession planning and grooming by not affording the potential subordinates opportunity to enhance and display their skills in satisfaction of selfish motives such as proposing to be the only talented administrators in the institution.
Whilst the proposal to increase retirement age is meant to appeal to the institution’s lower cadre, URA risks setting a dangerous precedent of potentially breeding complacency in a linear institution with a constricted pipeline. The actual beneficiaries are still the top management. It is a widely known and approved H.R practice that the longer you keep staff in an institution especially where career growth is constricted the more unhealthy organizational culture or SILO mentality is entrenched. Allowing new blood through an institution’s veins more frequently, more so at management level helps to re-engineer the organizational culture frequently.
Shame is that the policy is being fronted in the current circumstances where the head of state has continuously made reference to presence of ‘weevils’ in the institution. Ensuring fresh injection of administrators and staffing coupled with the natural exit of those due would assist to re-engineer the culture.
The staff have also dismissed with contempt the pedestrian argument of loss of talent as advanced by top management. The staff rightly point out that senior management is more administrative than technical with reference to the immediate Commissioner General emeritus who was a psychologist by training but diligently managed a pool of professionals to spur the institution to great successes. The staff contend that longevity and age are not the key determinants of leadership capacity and point out that the current Commissioners for Customs and Domestic taxes ascended to such offices at an early age as a result of the departure of the office bearers in strict adherence to the policy.
The staff have based on the foregoing arguments concluded that the real reason behind the selfish move is that the most top managers are in panic due to inadequate post institution departure planning while one Commissioner has recently ascended to the rank and basing on current age can only serve one term. The above behavior is insensitive to the nation’s cry for youth employment where persons with sufficient knowledge and capacity to create jobs through creation of consultancies are bent on staying in organizations and holding the same at ransom.
Staff have threatened to lay down their tools in opposition to such repressive policies should the Board ignore the evident writings on the wall and approve the indefinite contracts. The staff also intend to brief His Excellence the President of the developments as he opens the new office Tower on Saturday 19 January 2019 in addition to petitioning the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, State Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to commission an investigation on the motives of the top management.
Several calls to URA Assistant Commissioner Public & Corporate Affiars went unanswered.
More details to follow.