Govt tightens grip on asset management

Tuesday December 10 2019

A man uses a grader ahead of construction works

A man uses a grader ahead of construction works of Kabaale Airport in Hoima district. The asset management framework is expected to be finalised by July 2020. Photo by Eronie Kamukama  

By Christine Kasemiire

A tractor at Gulu Municipal office worth more than Shs500m has not been functional for a year awaiting new tyres of Shs3m and trailer of Shs30m.

For that year its duties of cleaning Gulu town have been abandoned. It now seats on grass where rain drops keep pounding it from time to time. Spider webs have also created a habitat of its seats.

North West of the tractor is a grader model 713 accompanied by dozens of culverts. These are few of the ‘dead’ and neglected assets owned by Gulu’s Local Government.

According to John Charles Luwa, senior economics planner, Gulu Municipal Council, while lack of a tractor affects their ability to clean the town, maintenance and repair of the property was not included in their budget for 2019.

“The tractor’s idle state has had a big impact on garbage collection. If you go to the suburbs, you will find a lot of garbage uncollected. We mainly concentrate in the town centres,” he says explaining that budget planners are too rigid to allocate money to certain purposes.

A few metres away is the Gulu municipal yard. Here, cars, tree trunks and motorcycles decorate the surrounding awaiting disposal.

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However, Mr Andrew Olal, the Gulu District engineer, says disposal of the properties is delayed by bureaucracies perpetuated by the Chief Government Valuer.

“The procedure that government takes to dispose off an asset is very long. We do several procedures but we do not get a response for instance, vehicles and movables require permission from the chief mechanical engineer, government valuer and an auctioneer. We cannot procure an auctioneer when the others are not done,” he justifies.

Disposed assets
The district in November got clearance and disposed assets worth more than Shs70m.
Every day that a non-functional asset rests in the yard is an expense to the district which has to pay for security and maintenance cost in other cases.

Ms Dorothy Natukunda, senior government valuer, explains that the office has faced under staffing challenges to which a lasting solution of decentralised zonal offices has been created.

“The challenge we have had in the past is we were under staffed. But now government has decentralised ministerial zonal offices. We have offices in Arua and Gulu among others which will enable us reach different places,” she explains.

Conversely, Mr John Walala, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, advises the local leaders to desist from blame games and embrace solutions and result-oriented work modules.

The discussion was held in the northern district of Gulu organised by United Nations Capital Development Fund, Ministry of Finance and Local Government with the aim of developing an asset management framework.

Timeline
According to Ms Jennifer Muhuruzi, acting director, treasury services and asset management, in the Ministry of Finance, the framework, which is expected to be finalised by July 2020 will include the asset management policy, asset management operations guidelines and the asset management accounting guideline.

This all-encompassing framework is expected to hold government offices accountable for the records management and maintenance of different assets.

The move highlighted the need for countries to maintain and dispose of assets to save funds.

“Uganda’s unprecedented population growth is bound to put pressure on Local Government assets across the board, especially through increased urbanisation. While such growth inevitably calls for the investment into new assets, local and national authorities must tackle the underperformance of existing assets,” Mr Joel Mundua, lead specialist UNCDF says.

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