Tuesday, August 28, 2012
HOW TO BETTER UNDER STAND DECENTRALIZATION IN UGANDA
In Uganda, the Local Government Act (1997) stipulates that most central government powers and responsibilities for public services planning and delivery should be devolved to local governments, which is decentralization. Decentralization may be defined as the transfer of authority from Central Government to Local Governments. It refers to the transfer of functions, powers, competence, skills, means and resources. Decentralization aims at addressing people’s needs at the grassroots. The measures one can use to identify levels of achievement are namely: Efficiency, Economy, Effectiveness and Accountability. The LC system today is a consultative forum for local decision making. Elected Chairpersons of the Council form executive committees at respective levels, and propose policies for their legislative bodies of the Council, which are formed by the representatives of the people. The decisions are implemented by the civil service staff. This LC system is most clearly structured at district (LC 5) level, where district development plans are made and important policies are decided for the district. The actual public services are provided by sub-county (LC 3) level, where the extension officers and community development workers are located. To better understand decentralization by various players in Local Governments in Uganda, The Ministry of Local Government in January 2012 came out with a publication: "Induction of Local Government Councils Participants’ Hand book." It provides councilors, civil servants and the general public with the knowledge and skills required in the implementation of a decentralized system of governance in Uganda. The handbook brings out the relation between the central and local governments. This is necessary to understand the boundaries of their power and influence. Below are some of the salient features of decentralization in Uganda, which are critical guidelines for its effective implementation. THE RELATION BETWEEN DISTRICTS AND LOWER LOCAL COUNCILS A Local Government may offer guidance to Lower Councils within its area of jurisdiction (Section 34 LGA) District Councils, through District Chairpersons and Chief Administrative Officers who have monitoring and supervisory powers over Local Councils within the District. This is provided for under sections 13(1)(d) and 64 (2) of the LGA, respectively. District Councils must incorporate plans of lower Local Governments into the District Development Plan. THE RELATION BETWEEN CENTRAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS (SECTION 95 - 98 OF LGA) The Ministry of Local Government shall be responsible for the guidance, inspection, monitoring and coordination of Local Governments. Line Ministries inspect, monitor, supervise and where necessary offer technical advice and training to Local Governments within their respective areas, in order to ensure the implementation of national policies and adherence to performance standards on part of local Governments. THE RELATION BETWEEN COUNCILORS AND CIVIL SERVANTS Civil Servants are servants of the people and therefore accountable to the Council. At the district, Sub-county, division, town and municipal level; Civil Servants operate as a team under the direction of the chief executives. These are: The Chief Administration Officer (CAO) at the district level, the Town Clerk for the urban councils (town councils, municipal councils and divisions) and the Sub county Chief for the Sub counties. The duty of the Civil Servants is to: Implement lawful Council decisions; Assist Council in policy formulation; Suggest to Council strategies for dealing with identified problems. Civil Servants are experts in their fields and their knowledge and expertise is important to Council as it deliberates on various matters. However, Councilors do not always have to accept advice given by the Civil Servants. When Councilors decide on what to be implemented and why, implementation is left to the Civil Servants. FORMS OF CENTRAL GOVERNMENT INFLUENCE OVER LOCAL GOVERNMENTS THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT HAS INFLUENCE ON GRANTS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS Article 193 (1) of the Constitution of Uganda and Section 83 of the Local Governments Act, CAP 243, provides that the Central Government shall transfer money to Local Governments through Conditional Grants, Unconditional Grants and Equalization Grants. Through these grants, the Central Government may influence Local Governments' policies and programmes. THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT EQUALLY HAS INFLUENCE IN FORM OF CONTROLS ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT BUDGETS Section 77 of LGA gives rights and obligations to Local Governments to formulate, approve and execute their budgets provided the budgets are balanced. In addition, Local Governments have to accord National Priority Programme Areas preferential budget outlays. If a Local Government budget significantly detracts from Priority Programme Areas, the Local Government Finance Commission (LGFC) is required to inform the Council, and the President through the Minister of Local Government for appropriate action. Furthermore, no money can be withdrawn from the General Fund Account or any other accounts of the district unless withdrawal has been approved by the Auditor General or his/her representative, as provided in Section 82 (2) of the LGA. UNDER THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACT COMMITTEES District and Municipal Contracts Committees are required to conform to the standards established by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) in the performance of their functions. Customized Local Government Procurement and Disposal of Assets Regulations have been produced. The Contract Committee is supposed to consist of five members nominated by the accounting officer from among the public officers of the procuring and disposing entity and approved by the Secretary to the Treasury. In addition, every district or Urban Contracts Committee is required to publish quarterly summary of all tenders awarded and give a copy to all relevant councils, the Minister responsible for Local Governments, the Inspector General of Government (IGG). LEGISLATIVE CONTROL Enactment of Statutes, issuance of regulations and legislative investigations are the main controls exercised on the Local Governments by the Central Government. Laws regulating the affairs of Local Governments must pertain to National Goals if they are to be effective. In addition, the central Government may request Local Governments to implement National Policy Decisions through the enactment of local laws (ordinances and bye-laws). JUDICIAL CONTROL Local Laws and administrative actions must not be in conflict with National Law since it is all subject to Uganda's Constitution. Courts have a role in protecting the rights of citizens against unwarranted actions by local officials or other citizens. PROTECTION OF PUBLIC OFFICERS Article 166 of the Constitution mandates the Public Service Commission (PSC) to guide and coordinate District Service Commissions (DSC). District Service Commissions are required to submit reports (Section 58 (2) of the Local Governments Act, CAP 243 to the District Council and the Public, Education or Health Service Commissions as may be applicable on the performance of its functions after every four months and whenever a report is required by the Council or the Public, Education or Health Service Commission. DEVELOPMENT PLANNING IN A DECENTRALIZED SETTING Development Planning is the setting of goals, mobilization of and allocation of resources so as to ensure that the benefits reach the target population. Planning is a continuous process; it includes not only the document preparation with the details that provide the data/information base and justification for projects but also their actual implementation. Decentralized Planning aims at improving service delivery by effectively involving the communities and service delivery units in proposing development solutions for poverty alleviation. OBJECTIVES OF DECENTRALIZED PLANNING To empower Local Governments, identify their priority needs at the level and be able to formulate localized responses to address them; Improve management efficiency in the LGs; To increase democracy and popular participation in the development process through effective representation of the population and provision of opportunities for participation of the people in decision making; and form a basis for efficient resource mobilization and allocation by LGs. LEGAL FRAMEWORK OF DECENTRALIZED PLANNING According to Article 190 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995), District Councils are required to prepare comprehensive and integrated development plans incorporating the plans of the lower level Local Governments for submission to the National Planning Authority. ii) Section 36 (1) of the Local Governments Act, CAP 243 recognizes the District Councils as the Planning Authority of a District. iii) In addition, Section 36 (3) mandates the District Council to prepare a Comprehensive and Integrated Development Plan incorporating plans of lower Local Governments for submission to the National Planning Authority, and the Lower Local Governments shall prepare plans incorporating plans of Lower Councils Section 37 (4) in their respective areas of jurisdiction. COUNCILOR’S EMOLUMENTS Emoluments for Councilors are principally paid from locally raised revenues. Regulation 4 to the first schedule of the LGA CAP 243, stipulates that expenditure of a LG Council in a Financial Year (FY) on emoluments and allowances of Chairperson and Councilors, shall not exceed 20% of the total revenue collected by that LG Council in the previous Financial Year. Regulation 4A to the first schedule stipulates that a CAO or Town Clerk who spends beyond 20% contrary to the provisions of regulation 4 without permission in writing from the Minister shall be required to refund the excess expenditure.