Leaders at local government level cannot exercise powers to decide what they want, says a constitutional expert.
By Francis Emorut
KAMPALA - Leaders at local government level cannot exercise powers to decide what they want for the district, apart from implementing what the central government wants, a constitutional expert has said.
Douglas Singiza says this has resulted into poor service delivery.
"What we have in Uganda is not decentralization but delegation of powers. It is mere nomenclature whether you call it devolution.”
Singiza, who was presenting a paper titled "Decentralization Policy: Powers and Performance of district councils, underscored the need to amend the Local Government Act.
He reasoned that as district councilors are powerless to decide what they want for the community, it promotes inefficiency in service delivery and the community cannot hold their leaders accountable since the local government only implements what the central government wants.
Also a researcher, Singiza rapped government over the hype that the decentralization policy in Uganda has been successful. According to him, the functions of district councilors are vague.
The constitutional expert also wondered how decentralization, which started in the mid-1990s, could be successful and yet its policy was published in 2006.
"You must plan according to the generated policy otherwise without it you can as well go and sleep and forget about it when you are instructed by central government on what to do.
"You can't have a chick before the egg.”
Ministry of local gov't PS Patrick Mutabire (right) talks to former council chairman of UMI, Kiwanuka Musisi during a public dialogue on decentralization policy. (Credit: Francis Emorut)
This was during a public dialogue on decentralization policy at the Uganda Management Institute (UMI).
"You must interpret the Constitution as a whole [in totality] to know the mandate of the district council but it is not stipulated in the Constitution," said Singiza, observing that in the Constitution there are no specific objectives specified dealing with local government.
With such discrepancies, he called for the amendment of the Constitution so as to spell out the powers of the district council.
Meanwhile, the acting permanent secretary in the ministry of local government, Patrick Mutabwire said that when the NRM took power in 1986, democratic governance was high priority, especially devolution of powers to benefit the local government.
He agreed on the need to amend the Local Government Act to resolve the contradictions.
The ministry PS said the review of the local government structure has already been done and that the paper would be presented to the cabinet next week.
Kiwanuka Musisi, the former council chairman of UMI said local governments should not be blamed for underperformance/poor service delivery because central government dictates what it wants, and is the one allocating budget to the districts.
"Limited resources are the root-cause of poor service delivery at district levels."
Musisi questioned the budget ration allocated for allowances for government officials working in the central government for inland travels and yet the districts are being starved of funds.
The director general of Uganda Management Institute, Dr. James Nkata also criticized government for having good policies which are not implemented.
"Uganda is well known for good policies all over the world but our shortfall is failure to implement. Others end up on the shelves of ministries and Parliament."
Local gov''t leaders ‘are powerless’