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Residents, Leaders Call For Review of Decentralization Policy

Local leaders and residents in Kabarole district want a review in the decentralization policy if effective service delivery is to be realized. In Uganda, the decentralization policy was introduced in 1993, aimed at involving and empowering the local governments in decision-making, identifying their own problems, setting priorities and planning and ensuring better use of resources, and value for money.

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Local leaders and residents in Kabarole district want a review in the decentralization policy if effective service delivery is to be realized. On Sunday, Uganda commemorated the African day of decentralization and local government.    

 

In Uganda, the decentralization policy was introduced in 1993, aimed at involving and empowering the local governments in decision-making, identifying their own problems, setting priorities and planning and ensuring better use of resources, and value for money.

 

Some residents and local leaders in Kabarole, however, say that the policy hasn’t lived to its expectations and it has instead stifled service delivery in the districts.

 

Sylvia Rwabwogo, the Kabarole district council deputy speaker, says that at the inception of the policy, there were a lot of promises such as closer and better services, jobs and improved infrastructure. She says that although facilities like schools, health facilities and roads have been constructed, few people can access the services.

 

Rwabwogo says that the central government should be blamed for poor service delivery by the local governments due to underfunding.  She says that the district allocates funds to key sectors, but the budgets are cut by the central government.

 

According to Rwabwogo, the creation of new districts has also affected the old districts. She says that the government is spending funds on the new districts instead of improving services in the mother districts.

 

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Gilbert Kayondo, a councillor in South Division, Fort Portal Municipality, says it was hoped that decentralization would give the districts and municipalities powers to decide on their operations, but this isn’t the case. Kayondo says that in some cases, the central government has interfered in decisions oblivious of the needs of the districts.

 

David Isingoma, a resident of Fort Portal, says that the policy should be reviewed to ease service delivery. Isingoma says that it was wrong for the government to abolish graduated tax, which was the only source of local revenue.

 

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Benon Karyeija, the chairperson of the Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA), says that as part of the activities celebrating 20 years of the decentralization policy in the country, the association will advocate for better policies for local governments to improve their resource envelope for better services to the community.

 

The Joint Annual Review of Decentralization held in February this year recommended an increase to at least 38% of the national budget if there is to be any meaningful service delivery to the grassroots. The review also states that everything from staffing, infrastructure such as roads, schools and health centres in local governments is now operating at less than 60%

 

According to a report by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), the decentralization policy is a good policy but has been abused.  The report indicates that for decentralization to have a meaningful impact on the lives of the communities, the local governments should be effectively funded and should have a say on how money is shared between the centre and the districts.

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