The months of March through to May 2017, saw a bee-hive of activities for Parliament and ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) discussing the budgetary proposals embedded in the ministerial policy statements.
Prior to meeting respective Committees of Parliament, each MDA prepares adequately to defend its ideas on paper. Unfortunately many of these MDAs do not make use of the meaning of preparations! Ideally, preparations mean planning! One of the critical resources at the disposal of managers in planning is time management.
Time is a resource available to all of us in equal measure, both to individuals and organisations. In business terms, time is money! The appropriate use of the time available determines the success of your planned activities, ultimately the organisations’ survival, growth, development and prosperity!
A good practice in time management requires time logging – the allocation of time to every planned activity to effectively and efficiently achieve the planned output.
Unfortunately, many planned meetings in most MDAs, including Parliament, do not adhere to this highly cherished discipline - time management!
Most meetings are held through procrastination, a practice that does not allow members to critically internalise issues at table. There is a lot of time wasting. Meetings are convened at a specific time, but the time schedule is not respected, making meetings to start long after one or two hours!
Such meetings are not effective because they are held haphazardly, are stressful and do not allow members adequate time to critically discuss issues and prepare for real negotiations! No wonder that is why we hear of our technocrats usually unable to engage in serious negotiations due to lack of adequate preparations to articulate issues of contention in meetings.
I was invited for a meeting in one of the ministries, in preparation for responses to one of the committees of Parliament, which in essence is a good practice. With my discipline in time management, I arrived dot the hour of the scheduled meeting. A colleague from an agency joined me about 10 minutes later grasping breath and sweating profusely, thinking that she/he was late!
Alas! We spent a good one hour after which the meeting started. Imagine what an hour’s productive time lost in my work place could have had on the economy!
As if that was not enough, the time at the Parliament committee meeting was yet another night mare! A meeting that was scheduled at a specific time, started an hour later! In my view, the host team could have strategically positioned themselves long before the arrival of the invited guests.
Incidentally, as always, I reached the venue, but found no one in the room. As a visitor, I opted to remain at the lobby with an eagle eye to see the first person to enter the venue of the meeting. A minister accompanied by his Permanent Secretary arrived and I followed them! Interestingly, as the business proceeded for slightly more than half an hour, I extended my hand for a cup of tea, which I took without “escort”. Later “escorts” were served when I had long taken my tea! Nonetheless, I munched them with water because I did not want to take another cup of tea to minimise my sugar intake.
It is true the concept of tea and “escorts” at business meetings such this is acceptable and should highly be promoted as it makes ideas flow and discussions palatable for a win-win situation. However, serious planning, that is, time management, is of essence if we are to deliver results for the survival, growth, development and prosperity of our institutions.
All in all, officials in Parliament and other public institutions should embrace and be keen on the concept of time management in their business if we are to deliver this country to the envisaged middle income status.
This is the era of Hakuna muchezo! It is time for work! I believe the work of the government Chief Whip is to ensure that MDAs and Parliament are working tirelessly.
I also imagine she should be exercising management by walking around during the Parliamentary committee sessions, establishing whether committees conduct their business as scheduled. Ideally, the conveners of these meetings at both Parliament and MDA level should have had some training in project management scheduling techniques so as to minimise cases of some members of the Committee coming late with apologies of being held up in another meeting!
Once again, fellow Ugandans, we should hold our leaders responsible for the poverty we talk about. Let our leaders make the best use of time available for planning, execution, implementation and monitoring as well as evaluation of government programmes so that the dream of middle income status is achieved!
To government technocrats, the eyes of Ugandans are focused on you!
Dr Okware is a lecturer at Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology.