THE Regional Governments Bill has been tabled in Parliament and will be debated early next year. Under the bill, two or more neighbouring districts can cooperate to form a regional government. The regional government will be led by an elected chairperson and have up to five ministers. Where a traditional or cultural leader exists in a region, he will be the titular head of the regional government.
There will also be regional assemblies. These will consist of one representative from each county, as well as representatives of women and cultural institutions, and two representatives each of the youth and persons with disability.
Under the bill, there will be a chief executive officer who will be the head of the public service of the regional government. Regional ministers can also establish other staff structures considered appropriate for the effective administration of the region.
Considering that there are currently 97 districts and 146 counties, this means that there could be as many as 48 regional governments, with 48 regional chairpersons, 242 ministers and 434 regional MPs. Apart from the cost of electing the regional governments, this new layer of government will also increase the cost of public administration and accountability. The question is: can we afford it?
Already, Ugandaâ€™s administration is among the heaviest in the world, with 70 ministers, 332 MPs and 97 districts which have their own chairpersons, assemblies and administrative staff.
This does not include the thousands of lower local council chairpersons who will also get paid in the near future according to a Government proposal.
Uganda will spend a total of sh1.3 trillion on wages and salaries this financial year, up from sh866b four years ago. The budget deficit has also grown in the same period, from sh1.2 trillion to sh2.5 trillion.
Yet, decentralisation, however well intentioned, has not led to better and more efficient services, as recent revelations of massive theft in the health and education sectors have shown.
Two questions should be asked when considering the Regional Governments Bill: is it sustainable; and will it lead to better management of the country and its resources.