Opinion
Uganda’s decentralisation policy misunderstood
Publish Date: May 29, 2014
newvision
  • mail
  • img

By Pascal Odoch
 
Uganda’s development strides since 1986 have been recounted several times; from strong and sustained economic stability and real growth averaging above 6% per annum for two decades to phenomenal reduction in income poverty from 56.4% nationally in 1992 to 19.7% in 2013.

Obviously, Uganda has already met and surpassed the Millennium Development Goal - 1 target of halving the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty, by 2015.

Between 1992 and 1998 Uganda delivered an extraordinary set of reforms under the World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programmes.

Clearly, the arrays of reforms were championed by a very capable Ministry of Finance under the leadership of National Resistance Movement-led administration headed by President Yoweri Museveni himself. A much more far reaching reform during this period was Decentralisation Policy.

Enacted in 1992, Decentralisation Statute devolved several powers from the Centre to Local Governments. The Local Government Act further cemented local governments as bodies corporate; implying they can enter into contracts and partnerships, including investment ventures, with individuals or other corporate bodies, including sister local governments.
 
Two decades later, the devolved planning, administrative, political, financial powers have generated mixed results; in some cases central government has recalled some devolved powers.

Community residents have not grasped the fact that the devolved powers were meant to efficiently facilitate delivery of quality services for their own good. Instead, sub-county technocrats have found themselves forging list of villagers meant to have attended participatory parish planning meetings because they don’t have funds to pay and feed the people who converge under a mango tree.

Mobilising the population for discussing their own development efforts has become challenging because they have misunderstood decentralisation; Duty Bearers fear calling community meetings as they don’t have “facilitation money” to pay them!

Why would one pay transport refund to a villager who has travelled one or two kilometers to a meeting called for seeking ways to improve his or her own household sorry state?

A few weeks ago, one of the longest-serving President Museveni’s Cabinet Ministers who at one time served as Local Government Minister, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere (now a Cabinet Minister in Office of the Prime Minister) called me that he was in Padyere County, Nebbi district, to preside over rolling-out of the Barazas.

The Barazas is an all-inclusive public dialogue where Duty Bearers and Rights Holders engage, assess progress, and make decisions on socio-economic and political development in their jurisdictions.

Prof. Kabwegyere entourage to Padyere County was simply a follow-up on performance of devolved powers implemented by Duty Bearers to the people on whose behalf they are hired to deliver the public services. Decentralisation has blinded the local government Duty Bearers who will do anything in their powers to stay afloat.

In one local government in Northern Uganda, a primary school classroom block has become a lodge for flea market vendors who pay fees to sub-counties for sleeping in and storing their merchandise in the rooms; some of these markets last up 2-3 days. And in the morning primary school pupils are confronted with the reality of stepping on condoms and empty waragi sachets all in the name of local revenue mobilisation! 

The civic competence level of rural population cannot match smarter university graduates at these local governments.

Government should strengthen civic competence of Rights Holders so that they can meaningfully engage the sophisticated Duty Bearers and hopefully reverse the defeatist “tusaba gavumenti etuyambe” in Luganda meaning “We ask Government to help us” an ironic plea from the very people to whom President Museveni has devolved virtually all the Central Government powers.

The writer: PhD., Visiting Professor, University of Lusaka. Email: podoch@parliament.go.ug

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Staying the Course in Europe’s East
As the European Union’s leaders gather in Riga for a summit with the six members of the EU’s “Eastern Partnership,” many recall the dramatic meeting in Vilnius of November 2013....
President Museveni is still right on creation of constituencies
This debate arises from the creation of 36 constituencies by President Yoweri Museveni. The people of Uganda should not criticise the creation of constituencies but argue for a strong policy....
Teachers strike; its high time government enforces contracts
On Tuesday morning, as I set out from home to town to begin my day, a village woman stopped me and requested me to offer her a lift which I did. Before she could settle in the car, she sought my opinion about the ‘silent’ teachers’ strike....
Channeling China’s aspirations
China has begun to stretch its economic and military muscles in recent years. In the South China Sea, it has built a series of quasi-military bases on the tiny Spratly Islands and deployed warships to defend them....
The missing meaning democracy
The decision to abandon relative peace and prosperity for brutal war and instability may seem irrational. But young people, born and raised in democratic societies, have increasingly been yielding to the appeal of death-dealing groups like the Islamic State, leaving their homes and families to wage...
Why Greece is Different,  Daniel Gros
By Daniel Gros The seemingly interminable negotiations between the new Greek government and its international creditors – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission – on a new loan deal have entered a dangerous phase....
Should politicians be banned from addressing religious gatherings?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter