EAC Secretariat restructuring was long overdue

16Apr 2018
The Guardian
EAC Secretariat restructuring was long overdue

VAST structural changes are reported to be underway in the Secretariat of the East African Community (EAC), including the complete overhaul of its organisational structure and mode of work. The more notable change in all this is that the EAC shall stop implementing projects conducted

under the EAC aegis, and instead focus on coordinating implementation that will be carried by national institutions in the specific sphere, for instance if one talks about environmental management of Lake Victoria. Such a measure removes if not a duplication of projects than a duplicity of functions, as each nation-state has officials for all sectors.

Reports said early last month that a vast reviewing of job descriptions of all senior officials and a remapping of staffing in each department of the Secretariat was going on, with likely impact of shedding weight in a systematic manner. That too was to be expected because the EAC was conceived (or re-established) during the heydays of donor dependency, with inclinations that the member states wished the situation to remain that way. Donors are also aware of that, and would have expected the member states to shoulder more of EAC activity, both as projects and administrative costs, as their economies grow and budgets get bigger.

All this has of course been happening, that economies are growing and budgets are vaster, but the will to spend on regional projects per se has scarcely been rising. Tanzania for instance had a 1.1trillion shillings budget in 1998 when the EAC Secretariat was being constituted (promulgated the following year) and now it is somewhere around 31trillion/- and still a good portion of it comes from aid. In 1998, out of the 1.1trillion/- around 720bn/- was locally based, and of that amount, only 10bn/- went towards development expenditure, reflecting the idea that development as such was donor funded, which has since then been diminishing, fast.

Technically, if in 1998 Tanzania needed just 400bn/- in foreign aid for its objectives to be met, with its own revenues (and credit mobilization) reaching 700bn/- and more, it would not conceivably need foreign aid at present. Budget-wise we have multiplied the numbers by more than 20 times, but we have only painfully accepted that donor contributions are reduced, as we would have wished they retain their old position as 40 per cent contributors to the Budget. As a result they lose influence as days go by, and we tend to do things in a more robust way than before, as foreign missions in the country had lost the edge of mediation, control.

Changing the modality of EAC cooperation is two-sided, as in one aspect it is meant to reduce duplicity of administrative activity in project implementation, but alternatively, it makes the EAC somewhat irrelevant as coordination can be done with donors, or between the ministerial portfolios involved. Especially when the project funding isn't based in the EAC as such but merely encompasses contiguous territory, the specific role of EAC oversight is increasingly hamstrung. In addition the traditional culture of overstaffing and use of plenty of budget funds in conferencing and comparing notes is in limbo, so thus the changes take effect. The restructuring that is underway takes account of what is expected from other partner states, what they expect from EAC now that little is expected from the donors. It could mean vast job cuts, pruned career sights.