THE East African Community (EAC) has refuted reports that it was going through a cash crunch to the extent of its staff deserting their workstations.
The Arusha-based Secretariat characterised the reports as baseless and unfounded, saying the regional intergovernmental organisation of six partner states remained stronger than ever, in implementing the integration agenda.
Briefing journalists yesterday, EAC’s Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Engineer Steven Mlote, rubbished claims that the Secretariat was experiencing a financial crisis which allegedly saw a great deal of its staff abandon their workstations.
Engineer Mlote, who was reacting to a story published at the weekend by ‘The East African’ titled EAC staff desert duty, return home as cash crunch bites, maintained that none of their employees had abandoned their workstations as the Secretariat was allegedly facing difficulties in paying salaries and allowances while some programmes have had to be suspended, adding that all was well with the regional economic community.
“I have personally done a headcount of all our staff and established that every EAC employee was in the office contrary to reports by the regional media outlet,” explained Eng Mlote, at the Secretariat’s headquarters.
Though he wouldn’t disclose the actual number of staff employed at the EAC Secretariat, the Deputy Secretariat General said he was aware that 14 of its staff were on their annual leave, one on a maternity break while 11 others, including EAC Secretary General, Ambassador Libérat Mfumukeko, were currently outside Arusha on official duties.
“It is business as usual here, the EAC remains strong and ever committed to the integration agenda with major milestones like Monetary Union and Common Market Protocol already achieved,” he said.
Engineer Mlote said all EAC employees had received their June and July salaries as normal, admitting, however, that there was a slight delay in effecting payments on East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) lawmakers due to ‘cash flow management’, which had hit the Secretariat during the turn of the new budgetary year.
Commenting on the Secretariat’s cash woes occasioned by defaulting member states, the EAC official observed that it was ‘quite normal’ to experience a financial crisis during the turn of the new fiscal year, as most of the partner states wouldn’t have submitted their contributions.
Eng Mlote insisted that the six partner states namely; Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan had between July and December 31 to honour their commitments.
“It is indeed unfair to conclude that our employers have deserted their places of work when we are still in mid-August.” According to the EAC Deputy Secretary General, no partner state had achieved a 100 per cent budget performance. Out of the all six member states, it was only Uganda which had completed its contributions recently.
“South Sudan is going through some turbulence, theirs is an exceptional case,” clarified the EAC official. Partner states’ failure to submit their financial obligations still remains EAC’s Achilles heel, with the Secretariat on numerous occasions, considering to impose sanctions on member states that fail to meet funding obligations as a budgetary crisis looms over the regional bloc.
Under the EAC’s rules, each member state is required to contribute $8.4m every year towards the bloc’s operating budget.
If a member state does not contribute its financial obligation to the bloc, sanctions can be imposed on them.
That would mean that the country would no longer be allowed to participate in the bloc’s customs union or free moment of people.