The Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) has urged government to provide computers and internet services in all sub counties to enable local government officials to prepare budgets and follow the approved budgets to them as the particular financial year unfolds.
ACODE says the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic early in 2020 led to the implementation of measures to control the spread of the disease among which was the observance of social distancing.
ACODE further states that social distancing enforcement amongst the populace required institutions to use digital platforms to conduct government business including the budgeting process of FY 2020/2021, adding that this posed a challenge to the transparency and accountability tenets of the consultative process of budgeting and also set a precedence for a paradigm shift from conventional to unorthodox approach to participatory decision-making.
Speaking during a breakfast dissemination workshop to communicate findings from a study conducted to assess the access and use of ICTs in Budget Transparency and Accountability in Uganda on March 25 at Protea Hotel Skyz In Naguru, the executive director of ACODE Dr Arthur Bainomugisha said: “The local governments at the lower government lower need to be provided with Information Communication Technology infrastructure (equipment).”
“The government should provide computers and internet services in all the sub countries so that they can track progress in the budget. In this way the national budget will become transparent and so will the local government leaders and thus foster accountability,” Dr Bainomugisha added.
ACODE says now more than ever, Ugandan citizens need to be able to understand government decisions, especially for the 2020/21 budget for citizenry participation in decision making.
In this regard, Dr Bainomugisha said: “The solutions we find in times of Covid-19 will open up possibilities for stronger and more inclusive public decision making when the pandemic is over .As the Covid-19 crisis persists, it has become clear that both central and local governments will need to harness media platforms, technological tools and solutions to engage citizens to further enhance budget transparency and accountability.”
Presenting the Preliminary Findings and Recommendations on the study findings from a study conducted to assess the access and use of ICTs in Budget Transparency and Accountability in Uganda, Ms. Florence Kuteesa Consultant, ACODE said less than 50 per cent have access to video calls, intranet services and fax.
“Only 60 per cent had the internet at home plus personal computers. Over 50 per cent use ICT (relatively high) – with over 73 per cent - cell phones, emails and computers,” she said.
Adding: “Daily use of most ICTs is high (over 60 %) with exception of e-government services (43%), video conferencing. Significant level have not used video calls, faxes and intranet services for budget related work.”
Stating the reasons for not using ICT by the Local Government leaders, Ms Kutessa said the study findings reveals that personal reason is health, optical eye constituted 54 per cent, lack of confidence, knowledge skill to use ICT was at 57 per cent, internet services not available or very poor 59 per cent, privacy and security concerns 59 per cent, subscription for content 63 per cent, cost of access 63 per cent cost of equipment 67 per cent, connectivity issue 68 per cent, having access to internet elsewhere 69 per cent.
“Over 50 per cent indicated all possible reasons. 74 per cent indicating no internet access,” she said.