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Why Untrained Councillors Fail in Service Delivery

Former Mukono District Chairperson, Godfrey Kiwanuka Musisi, says the local government Ministry should reintroduce mandatory induction training for councillors. Musisi, also the former President of Uganda Local Authorities Association ULGA, says many districts are failing to deliver the needed services because newly-elected politicians are not adequately inducted to perform their duties outlined in the Local Government Act.
Godfrey Kiwanuka Musisi, one of the outstanding District Chairpersons during the early years of decentralisation.

Audio 3

Former Mukono District Chairperson, Godfrey Kiwanuka Musisi, says the local government Ministry should reintroduce mandatory induction training for councillors.

 

Musisi, also the former President of Uganda Local Authorities Association (ULGA), says many districts are failing to deliver the needed services because newly-elected politicians are not adequately inducted to perform their duties outlined in the Local Government Act.

 

Musisi served as Chairperson of the then greater Mukono District in the 1990s before it was split to form Buvuma, Kayunga and Buikwe districts. In an interview at his retirement home in Njeru, he said the district was big but the residents then enjoyed better service delivery than they are currently.

 

The veteran leader is of the view that greater emphasis must be placed on building capacity of local politicians and some of the district civil servants if high-quality public services are to be delivered.

 

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Musisi is mindful of the fact that local governments are not receiving enough revenue from the Central Government but he says building capacity of the politicians and other district officials would better the situation. He says it is unlikely that Uganda will attain its development goal if it continued to create more districts with little budgets to run them.

 

In 2015, Parliament approved the creation of 23 new districts in various parts of the country, which will bring the number of districts to 135 by July 2019. This means 96 more districts have been created since the mid-1990s when Kiwanuka Musisi headed Mukono. By 1996 general elections, Uganda had 39 districts.

 

Uganda's overall development goal is to eradicate poverty and to enable her people enjoy a high standard of living. The nationwide aspirations that guide Government's development agenda were articulated through Uganda Vision 2025 and now Vision 2040.

 

In 2013, the Government of Uganda launched a long-term development vision, the Uganda Vision 2040, which is an all-encompassing perspective plan. The theme of this vision is to have a "Transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years".

 

The Uganda Vision 2040 acts as another guide to any future planning framework in the country including those at the local government levels.

 

Vision 2040 stipulates that the road to transformation will require careful planning and commitment of resources, and that the human rights-based approach to development will be integrated in the policies, legislation, plans and programs.

 

Uganda is one of the countries globally that are implementing decentralization following the enactment of the 1997 Local Government Act.

 

Several studies have extoled the virtues of local governments in improving local democracy, accountability, and service delivery. It was hoped that devolution of service delivery under local governments would improve local tax collection, increase transfers from the Central Government and would encourage citizens to get involved in local politics - all as a form of checks on central government power.

 

But what happens if these newly created local governments don't have qualified people in place to turn expectations into reality?

 

Kiwanuka Musisi who also worked as Kampala Resident District Commissioner said political and technical staff suffers from a general lack of capacity. He says lack of a well-packaged induction program and regular capacity building is greatly impacting on decentralisation as earlier envisaged.

 

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The fights among politicians and sometimes civil servants, according to Kiwanuka Musisi, is happening because there is no program for sensitising newly elected councillors.

 

Some of the politicians go through a one-week induction by the Local Government Ministry but little or no training is carried out in the five-years they are in office.

 

Musisi is of the view that one week of induction to councillors is not enough to enable them perform their oversight roles against more educated technical staff at the districts and sub counties.

 

Efforts by URN to interview Local Government Minister Tom Butime over the concerns raised by Kiwanuka Musisi were futile. His assistants said the minister's program for the week was tight.

 

One of the technical officers at the Ministry that asked for anonymity said lack or training of local politicians is one of the factors limiting effective service delivery.

 

The officer, who is not authorized to speak on behalf of the Ministry, participated in the development of the National Local Government Capacity Building Policy (NLGCPB) 2013 as part of the efforts to build capacity of elected and appointed officials of the Local Government.

 

The officer said not much has been attained due to financing constraints but Local Government Capacity Building Unit (CBU) exists at the Ministry.

 

The effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery among local authorities has been the priority of Local Government ministry according to the officer.

 

The government through Local Government Capacity Building Unit says effective delivery is one of the best functions that bring the government closest to the people. Local governments are where the services are delivered to the local communities within their area and districts.

 

National Local Government Capacity Building Policy 2013 outlined some challenges to service delivery from the capacity constraints among both technical staff and political leaders.

 

Among those included local government staff being appointed to Central Government positions, and failure by Health, Water and Environment, and Agriculture ministries to decentralize capacity building grants to local governments among others.

 

The document signed by former Local Government Minister Adolf Mwesige said there was a growing demand by local government officials, both elected and appointed, to benefit from career development courses yet the Capacity Building Grants (CBG) were decreasing.

 

It said there is lack of civic education to keep the community interested in the decentralisation process and empower them with their roles, responsibilities and rights.

 

Some have concluded that decentralisation is dying in Uganda as government continues to create more districts amidst shrinking funding from the central government.

 

With little money coming from the central government and  lack of capacity at all levels of local governments, Kiwanuka Musisi no longer expects much from Buikwe district, one of the districts created after splitting Mukono, purportedly to improve service delivery. Buikwe, like other districts, is in charge of primary education, primary healthcare, environmental sustainability, local roads, clean water and urban planning among others. 

 

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He says it is possible that the district officials have a problem moving from their homes to the district headquarters located 31 kilometres from Njeru where he lives. 

 

In the second part of the series, what happens if the districts don't have the financial resources to provide services? Mathias Kigongo, Chairperson Buikwe District and Godfrey Kiwanuka Musisi speak of the past, present, and what can be done for the future of local governments.