Masaka, Mbale, Mbarara to wait longer for city status

Friday October 18 2019

Elevation halted. The overview of Mbale Town,

Elevation halted. The overview of Mbale Town, which is to be elevated to a city. PHOTO BY FRED WAMBEDDE 

By Moses Kyeyune

More than 700 new administrative units, including cities, town councils and sub-counties in various parts of the country will have to wait a little longer before they assume the new status.
In the 2020/21 budget, three of the 10 newly created cities will have to operate as municipalities until funds are realised. The affected cities are Masaka, Mbale and Mbarara.

At least 352 town councils and 364 sub-counties will also not be included in the election year budget since they were not planned for in the medium term expenditure framework.
Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary of the Finance ministry, in a September 13 budget circular ordered all accounting officers not to include the new administrative units in the 2020/21 budget.
Mr Muhakanizi said the new administrative units “will bring distortions” in the budget.

The lack of funds to operationalise new administrative units comes after this newspaper revealed in April that hundreds of new sub-counties and municipalities ran for a year without elected leadership and government funding and were surviving on what some MPs called “chickenfeed”.
The affected administrative units were expected to become operational on July 1, 2020.
However, Arua, Gulu, Lira, Hoima, Jinja, Fort Portal and Entebbe have not been affected.

Mr Muhakanizi also cautioned against creation of new administrative units in the face of a constrained resource envelope and warned against change of work plans.
“This leads to distortions during implementation and impacts on budget credibility [and] this practice must stop,” he said.
In view of the creation of the cities and other administrative units, Mr Muhakanizi stated that “accounting officers of the affected institutions are, therefore, requested to plan and budget while taking into consideration that required changes in line with the budgetary changes, required human resource and geographical reconsiderations with regards to any changes in the physical boundaries of divisions and other such administrative units.”

President Museveni in 2015 lifted a government ban on creation of districts and other administrative units, and promised that his government would lift the moratorium and create new districts.
The districts have since increased from 122 in the 2016 general election to 134 to date. The proponents of the new administrative units say they are projected to bring services closes to the people while those against the units insist that they are a liability to the taxpayer given the skyrocketing cost of public administration and corruption.

In 2013, the President had announced a freeze on the creation of new districts, arguing that they were too expensive to bankroll amid a flurry of demands for the new administrative units around the country.
These are the same arguments Mr Muhakanizi and other technocrats in Ministry of Finance have raised six years later.
“Resources have not yet been secured for the operationalisation of all these sub counties and Town Councils,” Mr Muhakanizi’s circular reads.
It adds that as a stop gap measure, the NRM government took a policy decision that in future, the proposals for creation of any administrative units should first have a Certificate of Financial Implications (CFI).

This, according to PSST, would “certify that government actually has the resources to sustainably operationalise any such newly created public institutions.”
“In the same vein”, Mr Muhakanizi wrote that the financial year 2020/21 will be a year of general elections and that the Electoral Commission “will be creating more administrative units (especially villages and parishes) to facilitate the electoral process”.
More than Shs139b is required for the operationalisation of the new town councils and sub-counties with a share of Shs108.5b and Shs30.7b, respectively.


However, the available funds only cater for 203 town councils and 196 sub-counties which became operational on July 1 but continued to exist without elected leaders and structures.
Daily Monitor understands that the estimated amount, excludes costs for public administration such as establishment of a police post, health and education facilities in each of the administrative units, in line with the current government policy.
Mr Muhakanizi also told accounting officers, including those craving for new administrative units that the theme for 2020/21 and the medium term is guided by the draft Third National Development Plan (NDP III) and remains “Industrialisation for job creation and shared prosperity”.

Last evening, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Betty Aol Ocan, accused Mr Muhakanizi of “hoodwinking” Ugandans that there is no money for the new administrative units, and criticised a bloated government she described as “a burden to the taxpayer” on account of the exploding cost of public administration.
“These sub-counties and town counties are unnecessary. The cost of public administration is already high. Why do we need these units when our people don’t even have jobs? We needed only four cities for each region but not 10,” Ms Aol said.

“They are just pending that there is no money but when time comes, they will find the money and create those administrative units. There must be deliberate government effort to cut consumption and put money in agriculture, health, education and infrastructure projects but not new administrative units.”