What Uganda and the citizens as a whole need at the moment are not the districts
By Patricia Kyomugisha
Uganda in a bid to increase efficiency and service delivery to her citizens adopted a decentralised system of government.
This was as enshrined in the 1995 Constitution of Republic of Uganda and the 1997 Local Governments Act which gave it a legal backing following a series of political and administrative commissions.
However, the creation of new districts has drastically increased from the 18 districts by the time of Independence, then to 33 districts by the time NRM took over power to current 122 districts.
Decentralisation policy in Uganda envisioned to improve accountability and responsibility at the local level through transfer of power from center to the districts, political control at local level, enhancing local economic development and improving local capacity in management of resources. Also, it is believed that new districts stand for bringing services nearer to people, fostering development and above all ensuring rigorous representation.
It should be noted, however, that creation of a new district comes with many administration costs, which include, establishment of administrative sites, recruitment of staffs, salaries and remunerations for staff, upgrading of health centers, and of course election of political leaders. All these costs constrain the already small national budget. Despite the criticism on creation of new districts the government and self-motivated persons still insist on establishing more districts in disguise of increasing political participation and improving social service delivery.
What Uganda and the citizens as a whole need at the moment are not the districts, but rather addressing of the real problems at hand such as the high rates of unemployment especially among youth, high child mortality, the increasing rates of poverty which could be solved by spending mindfully the limited resources in sectors that can benefit everyone as a whole.
Finally as long as the government does not notice the harm the creation of districts is causing, the target of reaching a middle income status by 2020 might be a far-fetched dream. What is needed therefore is for the government and its people to revise all items that act to increase the government’s recurrent expenditures and to investment more in meaningful areas of development other than creating more districts.
The writer works with the Uganda Debt Network