ULGA hits at MPs over districts report

Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA) has reacted angrily to report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee on Local Governments that portrays the local governments as corrupt.

Last Thursday, members of the Parliamentary committee led by Aswa MP Ronald Reagan Okumu presented a report to President Yoweri Museveni, compiled out of their scrutiny of the Auditor General’s report for the 2016/2017 Financial Year, highlighting various issues deemed responsible for the poor service delivery at the local government level.

Among the issues highlighted in the Parliamentary report to Museveni is theft through electronic money transfers from the Ministry of Finance,  Planning and Economic Development to some local governments.

Address journalists at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, ULGA Vice president (Western region) Patrick Besigye Keihwa said that while ULGA agrees with the committee report in regard to issues around an enabling policy environment, inadequate funding and weak accountability central and local government systems, the district leaders took exception of the portrayal of local governments as corrupt entities.

“ULGA on behalf of its member Local Governments expresses its concern over the persistent and continuing derogatory statements that come from Central Government agencies that portray our service delivery institutions in bad light as poor service delivery managers who do not account for funds advanced to them,” Keihwa said.

He said, the local governments are concerned that their representatives are never given adequate space and time to respond to audit queries that arise and provide proper and adequate explanation.

“Increasingly, agencies like PAC remain aloof to the unfavourable working conditions the Accounting officers encounter in the course of ensuring that there is efficiency and performance at their level,” Keihwa said.

He said that many of the issues that are contained in the Okumu report have previously been tabled before Museveni by the ULGA membership during their interface on August 16.

“The critical issues affecting local government service delivery can be described in four key areas; weakened and almost obsolete policy of Decentralization, lack of proper coordination of service delivery, weak institutions, and inadequate resourcing affecting programme implementation,” Keihwa said.

“In our message to [Museveni], ULGA raised concern on the current distortion of the intentions of the Decentralization Policy, through the increasing trend to recentralise functions, powers and responsibilities, by government as seen by the character of recent policies and laws being enacted,” Keihwa said.

The result of recentralisation, Keihwa added, there is the increasing poor service delivery and persistent poverty evidenced by the current struggle to close in the remaining 69% into the cash economy.

“Corruption is on the increase, tearing apart the moral fabric of our society, and the apparent lack of accountability is a consequence of weak leadership centers at local levels,” he said.

“ULGA and the Local Leaders observed that the people of Uganda are not in charge of their destiny. They have been locked out of the decision-making space given the top down authoritative approach where the people of Uganda have been relegated to a position of mere recipients of what a minority group of elitists and technocrats perceive to be in their best interests,” the Kabale district chairman added.

He blamed the accountability issues on the numerous power centers which has resulting in a lot of confusion amongst beneficiaries.

“At the local government level, we have the Chief Administrative Officer who is directly appointed as Accounting Officer by Ministry of Finance and therefore is limited to being answerable to the local government he/she serves, the Resident District Commissioner who is deployed by Office of the Presidency, and the various line Ministry representatives and focal officers engaged in direct implementation of projects and programmes blind to the Local Government structure. This cocktail of actors with no clear accountability structures results into continuous blame games with Local Governments taking the bigger brunt as evidently seen from the PAC reports,” Keihwa said.