President Museveni plans to deploy soldiers to all of Uganda’s 238 parliamentary constituencies to supervise improved agricultural production to create food security and more household incomes
The President also aims to pool all the monies planned under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), microfinance initiatives, and several poverty alleviation programmes and re-channel to buy materials to boost agriculture, food security, and household incomes.
This President’s move to adopt the ‘Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) success story’ and ‘soldier per constituency’ model shows his deep faith in military execution of tasks and loss of confidence in civil institutions, even as he says the two will work side by side.
What is more, this mixed model creates many power centres and parallel reporting lines and influence for technocrats and veterans and may distort execution of the programme and reduce its impact. What was required was for the public service bureaucracy to adopt the UPDF veterans’ model, succession of stages, operations, and processes and apply to deliver Naads to transform rural livelihoods.
Previously, Naads was plagued by corruption and stakeholders looking at it as a cash cow. Besides, Naads was shaken by power struggles and the Board’s poor working relationship with the Executive. Moreover, Naads was beset by quarrels about its Board’s reporting lines between line ministry of Agriculture; the Ministry of Finance; and the World Bank, its financiers.
This is not to mention lack of transparency, cases of influence peddling, nepotism, and creation of fictitious projects. For all these ills and many more, Mr Museveni had to twice suspend Naads operations in 2008, and again in 2010. Nonetheless the public service bureaucracy should still be made to work.
The precaution here is that the UPDF may be efficient in executing several tasks but the institution cannot troubleshoot all problems and out-compete technocrats. For this, there is no guarantee that the veterans have a silver bullet in solving all problems, including ensuring improved agricultural production, food security, creating more household incomes, and correcting procurement and documentation lapses.
Even as government plans this scheme, it should guard against fears that the consolidated poverty alleviation schemes, like Naads, will be hijacked and turned into a party campaign platform of delivering political goods for supporters of the ruling government.
For this, the endorsement of Mr Museveni to contest for re-election in 2016 by the Luweero bush war veterans, part of the bulk of ‘soldier per constituency’ model overseers, sounds the alarm bells that the planned poverty alleviation scheme is a rejigged campaign tool of delivering votes for Mr Museveni.
This is why government should guard against handing the programme to party cadres to execute rather than impartial technocrats. Government should ensure the mixed scheme delivers more farmer benefits than political goods.