Dysfunctional health centres blamed on citizens' ignorance
A total of 898 households participated in the research of which 61 percent were female and 39 percent males. ...
PIC: Salima Namusobya, the executive director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) with the chairperson of Uganda Human Rights Commission, Med Kaggwa during the launch of the Citizen Participation in Local Government Service Delivery Processes in Uganda on Tuesday. (Credit: John Semakula)
KAMPALA - A new report on citizen participation in local government service delivery processes in Uganda has blamed dysfunctional health centres, water supply, and schools on lack of citizens' access to vital information.
The study conducted by the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) in six districts revealed that lack of access to information is preventing citizens from participating in the processes of providing health, water and educational services, hindering high quality services delivery.
The study whose results were released on Tuesday at Hotel Africana in Kampala was conducted in the districts of Bushenyi, Kyenjonyo, Kayunga, Iganga, Mbale and Kumi in the last three years.
A total of 898 households participated in the research of which 61% were female and 39% males.
According to the findings, 63% of the 898 respondents overall said they did not know how Water User Committees (WUCs) on their villages are formed.
WUCs are responsible for managing communal water and sanitation on their respective villages.
The report said, "Ignorance on the formation of WUCs was highest in Bushenyi (86%), Mbale (74%), and Kyenjonjo (68%)."
"According to the findings, districts with lower levels of ignorance on WUCs were Kumi (56%), Kayunga (51%) and Iganga (44%)," the report added.
The report also indicated that majority of the respondents (58%) said their WUCs were not functional.
Bushenyi posted the highest number of non-functional WUCs (85%), followed by Kyenjonjo (68%) and Mbale (65%).
On accessing educational information on the outcomes of School Management Committee (SMC) meetings, majority of the respondents overall (82%) said they could not easily access it.
"Only 18% of the respondents said they had adequate access to the outcome of the SMC meetings, which served to motivate their participation in subsequent stages," the report added.
The executive director of ISER, Salima Namusobya noted that they conducted the study because they believe that strengthening local governments through increased citizen participation and engagement are key strategies.
For the health sector, majority of the respondents overall (87%), said they could not easily access Health Unit Management Committee related information.
The chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Med Kaggwa noted that denying citizens crucial information and participation in the processes of providing services was contrary to a number of international legal instruments.
Kaggwa, who was the chief guest at the launch, also noted that, "Article 38 of the Constitution of Uganda guarantees the concept of citizens' participation by stating that every Ugandan has the right to participate in the affairs of government, and to influence government policies."
He reminded local governments of the core responsibilities such as "extending services nearer to the communities and ensuring people's participation and democratic control in decision making."
However, the chairperson of the Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) Association in Uganda, Dunstan Balaba, observed that whereas there were political mechanisms in place in form of Local council structures to allow citizens participation, the top down approach used by the central government does not allow them to involve the citizens.
"Over 99% of the resources we use in local government come from the centre and are conditioned that even if you involve the citizens in the process of providing services, you will not implement what they want," Balaba said.
He said there is need to go back to the ideal decentralisation where the state was supposed to use a bottom-top approach in service delivery for citizens.
"If local governments are empowered, they can use the voices of the people," Balaba said.
In her remarks, Kumi district chairperson, Christine Apolot noted that whereas her district has tried to use a participatory approach, many times when they invite locals for accountability meetings, they don't turn up.
Apolot added that high illiteracy levels among rural citizens were hindering citizens from reading and understanding accountability papers English.
In the same vein, Makerere University law don, Robert Kirunda, called for the awakening of the consciousness of the citizens to be able to demand for what belongs to them.