We sure can do better because God has not yet abandoned us

Sunday June 28 2020

 

By Bernard Tabaire

The 2021 election campaigns, for now decreed to be entirely digital (media-based), are starting soon.
I think they should be postponed so that candidates fully mix and mingle with potential voters. Candidates need to know the faces of people whose votes they will be buying.

Bribery aside, the issues to address in the government are meaty for those who will be elected. Apart from broad policy, there is plenty of management stuff. More than three decades later, the Museveni government is still floundering on the basics.

Let’s hear it from the government itself. From the highlights of the Auditor General’s Report 2019, there is this: “I observed that 43 government projects had funds available of Shs2.31 trillion to implement project activities. However, only Shs1.58 trillion was spent resulting into unutilised balance of Shs736b which represents a low absorption capacity of 68 per cent.
This was majorly attributed to delays in approving work plans, long procurement processes, delays in signing of contracts and slow execution of works among others.

“As a result, there were partial or non-implemented planned activities, interest charges on unwithdrawn funds of Shs90.6b, extension of projects increased project administration costs … and delayed service delivery to the beneficiary communities.”

And now comes the just-released Third National Development Plan 2020/21–2024/25. It mourns: “The civil service is in general weak and not adequately equipped to drive development. For instance, the implementation of almost 50 per cent of all NDP II core projects is unlikely to start before expiry of NDP II. This is due to a lack of capacity, a lack of will and diverse pressures placed on civil servants from other sources that all combine to frustrate the successful implementation of policy. This is compounded by prevalence of corruption that has increased the cost of doing business for both the public and the private sector. Addressing this will be key to transforming articulated goals into reality.”

Here is more. There is “weak performance, low accountability for results and unsatisfactory work ethic in the public sector that does not adequately respond to the needs of citizens and the private sector. This is due to: (i) poor accountability systems and undue focus on processes rather than results; (ii) inefficient government systems and processes; (iii) duplication of mandates; (iii) inadequate talent management across government; (iv) an inefficient and inadequately funded decentralised system of government; (v) limited computerisation of government systems; (vi) high level of corruption; and (vii) ineffective and inadequate communication and feedback mechanisms”.

Advertisement

One could spend the whole day unpacking this sad story. For now, let’s plough on by returning to the Auditor General’s highlights.

“The Uganda Land Commission (ULC), charged with the acquisition and management of all government land, did not have an inventory for all government land and properties that are either occupied by tenants, vacant, acquired under compensation (but not yet re-distributed to the bona fide occupants), or acquired and owned by other government institutions and missions abroad.

This inadequacy has contributed to government losing land to land grabbers, squatters and also loss of revenue collections from property premiums and leases.”

The results of the marriage between official incompetence and official corruption can be all so real.

So, go on, cry. Then laugh. Or do both simultaneously.

Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala. bernard.tabaire@gmail.com
Twitter:@btabaire