Halting district creation was overdue
Posted Tuesday, March 19 2013 at 02:00
On March 11, the media was buzzing with headlines of President Museveni halting the creation of 23 new districts. The pronouncement could not have come at a better time, given that local governments are still struggling with challenges such as, inadequate financing, for effective service delivery in areas like health, roads, education, sanitation and agriculture. Local governments also suffer from understaffing to as low as 28 per cent in the new districts. This decision has been long over due.
Uganda local governments Association (ULGA) clearly stated in its position paper on district creation published in August last year, that creating more units without the requisite finances would in no way improve service delivery. This position was based on an analysis by ULGA which showed that over time, financing for the Local Government sector had continually declined from 25 per cent in the 2005/2006 to 17.6 per cent in 2011/12.
A 2011 DENIVA report on the dynamics of district creation also recommended the halt until a proper process based on a clear set of objectives that consider efficiency, equity and macro stability of the decentralisation process is established. The report called on Central Government to recommit itself to the full implementation of the devolution system of governance where citizens have stronger rights in terms of determining their destiny through holding their leaders accountable at all levels.
It is evident that our current system of decentralisation favours devolution of power without financial authority because local governments are almost 97 per cent dependent on the centre for financing. Local revenue collected contributes between one to three per cent of the total district budgets. Moreover, these central government grants are heavily conditioned limiting discretionary spending according to the districts’ priorities.
For instance, approved estimates of revenue and expenditures from the Ministry of Finance indicate the progression of conditional grants from 85.6 per cent in the 2009/10 financial year to 87.86 per cent in the 2011/12 financial year. In the wake of such continued challenges, it is necessary for the process to be stayed while we seek better alternatives as a country that can ensure sustainability of these local government units in the long run.
Local governments with the support of the central government, development partners and the private sector should be enabled to develop strategies for increasing wealth creation and productivity at community level before we can think of having more administrative units.