WHY DO PROFESSIONALS LEAVE THEIR CAREERS AND OPT FOR POLITICS IN UGANDA?
The Principles of Decentralization are entrenched in Uganda’s Constitution and the Local Government Act. These provisions empower Local Governments with responsibilities of allocation of public resources, integrated participatory planning and budgeting, local resource mobilization and investment management within their areas of jurisdiction. The decentralization policy aims at improving service delivery, accessibility to services and reduction of poverty.
The reason why people who are well qualified (Medical Doctors, Engineers; to mention some) leave their would be paying professions and opt to compete for Local Government positions can be found in the study below which was undertaken by The Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).
THE PRIVATE TENDER SYSTEM IN DISTRICTS STUDIED HAD VERY SERIOUS DEFECTS – ‘A GIGANTIC RIP-OFF.’
The Economic Policy and Research Centre (November 4, 2003) presented their study which showed that the private tender system in 6 districts studied that is: Mbale, Kamuli, Mubende, Masaka, Ntungamo and Arua had ‘very serious defects’ and amounted to little more than a transfer of money from the ordinary often very poor tax payers, to the pockets of richer tax collection agents and their associates. “Given that gross profit margins to tenderers vary from between 100% to almost 1,000% in the above districts, the private tendering system amounts to a gigantic rip off,” said Professor Frank Ellise, a Senior Consultant on the EPRC study team.
This happens because tax collection contracts for market places, fish landing sites and parishes are tendered out on the basis of an “assessed” reserve price that is supposed to represent the amount of tax likely to be collected from that market or site. Tenderers are usually permitted an “official” profit margin of about 20% above this reserve price. In other wards for an assessed revenue potential of 1million shillings, the reserve price would be shs 800,000. It is in the assessors’ interest to keep the reserve price low so that the tenderers have the potential to make very high unofficial profits on the taxes they collect… profits that can ultimately be shared with corrupt district officials, tender board members and local politicians.
The gap between revenue actually collected and the official tender price represents profits of as much as 407% in Kamuli, 558% in Masaka and an alarming 970% in Ntungamo. This money could have been obtained by councils if there was participatory involvement of the people. This situation is very discouraging especially when we consider that it is the poor who are being hurt the most and, in this type of circumstances, because there is a revenue gap in the local governments, the local governments continue to search for new ways to generate higher incomes hence burdening the residents with ever increasing numbers and types of levies, licences, fees and taxes to the point that multiple local level licensing and taxation, and its maladministration, is now among the leading cause of poverty in Uganda. (The Monitor, Monday, November 17, 2003).