How new cities are grappling with lack of funds

Garbage dumped at Kabudaire market in Fort Portal City. New leaders say they have been having challenges of few garbage trucks. PHOTO | ALEX ASHABA

What you need to know:

  • Parliament on April 28 approved the creation of 15 cities on July 1. They include Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Masaka, Mbale, Soroti, Hoima, and Lira.

Lack of staff structures and funding from the central government continue to cripple the operations of the newly-created cities, Daily Monitor has learnt.

Parliament on April 28 approved the creation of 15 cities on July 1. They include Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Masaka, Mbale, Soroti, Hoima, and Lira.

Nakasongola, Entebbe, Moroto, Kabale and Wakiso are to become cities in a phased manner. The creation of cites, however, did not come with a budget, creating a crisis as the new cities are still operating on the municipal vote.

This has affected service delivery, especially garbage collection, paying staff, and maintenance of trucks, among others.  Some experts, however, say the creation of cities was rushed.

“The creation of cities was rushed and yet there were a lot of lacunas, which needed to be addressed. They proceeded anyway,” Mr Steven Masiga, a researcher, said.
Mr Masiga, who is also the coordinator of Makerere University Centre in Mbale,  said this is partly the reason why the cities are currently embroiled in confusion brought about by lack of resources to manage their activities.

In Jinja City
In Jinja City, Mr Morrison Moses Bizitu, the Jinja City Council Speaker, said all plans have not been implemented due to funding challenges.
 “Activities like garbage collection, street lighting, road maintenance and burying of unclaimed bodies, are all on halt,’’ he said.

Mr Bizitu said some councillors who have not been receiving salaries and allowances, have threatened to go to court. “The technical wing closed the old municipality account and the city account was opened but it has no single credit balance,” he said.

Mr Peter Okocha Kasolo, the newly-elected mayor of Jinja City, said government should expedite the process of allocating funds to the cities.

Mr Kasolo said his focus will be on ensuring that the Source of River Nile is redeveloped to generate more revenue.
“The Source of River Nile is a tourism centre which is supposed to generate more revenue but most of the revenue collected is swindled. I will ensure that those linkages are bridged and the place redeveloped to attract more tourists both locally and internationally,’’ he said.

Mr Kasolo said currently Sh80m is collected every month and if the Source of the Nile is redeveloped, the money could be tripled.
In August last year, Finance State minister David Bahati presented to Parliament a motion for approval of funds to be redirected towards the operationalisation of new cities but the MPs rejected the motion, citing breach of the law.

The MPs said the minister needed to bring a law first to facilitate the creation of authorities of the respective cities.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga then said  Cabinet should have a clear resource pool for the cities and not tamper with the budget.
For instance, Shs21.69b had been earmarked for Fort Portal, Shs26b for Arua City, Shs35b for Jinja City and Shs42b for Mbale, among others.

In Mbarara City, challenges include poor garbage disposal, illegal structures, growing number of street children, limited access to safe and clean water, especially in the new divisions of Biharwe and Kakiika.
Others are poor road infrastructure, especially outside the city centre, and lack of order among the vendors and boda bodas who have taken over walkways.

Locals also say poor sanitation and hygiene are also evident, with sewerage spilling, especially in Biafra in Kamukuzi Northern Division. The sewerage sometimes flows into River Rwizi in Kakoba in  South Division.
Mbarara City mayor-elect, also interim mayor Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi acknowledged the challenges.

“True, we have many challenges but my priority will be ensuring better physical planning of the city. There are no more illegal constructions,” he said.
He blamed the illegal structures on rampant corruption. “I will make sure there are no more delays in approving building plans but also make plan acquisitions cheaper,” he said.

In Soroti City, Mr Paul Omer, the acting mayor, who is also the mayor-elect for Soroti City East Division, said a number of plans have stalled.
The projects include beautification of the public garden, street lighting, installation of traffic lights, tarmacking of roads, construction of a modern taxi terminal and development of gazetted markets in the outskirts of the former municipality boundaries.

“It’s only in Europe where the mayor can say, I want this to be done but in Uganda, this is not practical unless the President or another person of authority in the top government office commands,” Mr Omer said.
 Mr Omer added that there is need for government to open up more industries in Soroti City to provide jobs.

In Lira, dozens of people have been rendered jobless following the creation of Lira City. The affected include civil servants, politicians and the support staff who used to work in four divisions of Lira Municipality, which were Railways, Central, Ojwina and Adyel and also the annexed sub-counties in Lira District.

The aerial view of Republic Street in Mbale City. The city is still operating as a municipality. PHOTO | SIKO CONSULTS

The interim mayor of Lira City East Division, Mr Emmy Joe Odongo, said with the formation of the new administrative unit, the control and utilisation of funds have been restricted by the central government.
Lira City deputy clerk Patrick Ogweng said operations have been affected.

“The system has changed because previously we used to collect our revenue and spend it here but now when we collect, we bank the money onto central government’s accounts, meaning we have to sit and wait when it is released, that’s when we can use it,” he said.
 He added: “Actually, from September to January 2021, we collected Shs630 million that went straight onto the central government accounts and to date we have not received any coin.”

Masaka City
In Masaka City, Ms Florence Namayanja, the Masaka City mayor-elect, says since Masaka is an agricultural city, they plan to explore this opportunity to generate more local revenue.

“We plan to address issues associated with starting up businesses so that we can attract more business people and  boost our revenue base without necessarily waiting for central government’s support,” she said.
Last year, Masaka City received  Shs28 billion towards its operationalisation in addition to Shs60b the authorities had earlier got under the second phase of Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development Programme.

However, Mr John Behangane, the Masaka City clerk, said the money is still stuck on the city account due to lack of an enabling law to operationalise all the new cities.
Mr Godfrey Kayemba, the outgoing mayor of Masaka City, said in some parts of the city such as Nyendo-Mukungwe municipality, people are likely to face sanitation-related diseases.

 “We are struggling to see that there is no outbreak of diseases like Cholera by talking to service providers to help us continue working as we wait for funds,” he said.
Masaka City only has six public toilets some of which were erected before independence. It also lacks a standard landfill where to dump waste.

Although the city owns 20 acres of land in Bulando Village, Mukungwe Sub-county, where  they had planned to set up a modern landfill, the city authorities say they need more than Shs480m to set up a modern garbage treatment plant.

Masaka City generates at least 100 tonnes of garbage every week, but authorities can only collect 70 per cent because they only have two functional garbage trucks.
 In Mbale City, the acting public relations officer, Mr James Kutosi, said they are still operating as a municipality.

“We are still operating as a municipality and facing similar challenges with other cities. We have no  staff structure,” he said. He, however, said they are designing strategies to ensure that local revenue collection is boosted.
 “We want to have a lively and competitive city. We are going to put up first-class health facilities to meet the standards of the new city,” he said.

Mbale residents say
 Mr Akim Watenyeli, a resident, said the new leadership should correct the mistakes of the previous leadership such as alleged allocation of green spaces, road reserves and sewer lines to developers.
 In the just-concluded city mayoral election, Mr Kassim Namugali Wamatambu, the Forum for Democratic Change flagbearer, was elected as city mayor after defeating the incumbent, Mr Mutwalibi Zandya.

 “The new leadership should deal with  illegal structures built on road reserves, sewer lines and also recover green spaces,” he said.
 Mr Watenyeli said although the city has the potential to generate about Shs10b annually, it has been collecting less than Shs1b due to  corruption.

Figures obtained from the Council indicate that the municipality collected Shs1.5b of the approved budget of Shs3.9b in the Financial Year 2017/2018, Shs1.4b out of the approved budget of Shs4.8b in FY 2018/2019.
 In the FY 2015/2016, Shs911m was collected out of about Shs3b approved budget and in FY 2016/2017, Shs1b was realised out of the Shs4b budget.

 Mr James Mafabi, a resident, said the golf course and forest areas have been turned into grazing fields for stray animals because of negligence.
 “There is a lot that needs to be done because you find an access street has been turned into a stage for special hire and boda boda riders,” he said.

 Mr Mafabi said some old dilapidated buildings have been abandoned and a few turned into local produce stores.
 Mr Michael Wandulu, a resident of Nkoma Ward in Northern City Division, said officials should fight the tendency of awarding tenders to their colleagues and relatives, saying this undermines revenue collection.

 Mr Namugali said he would start by demolishing houses built on sewer lines and road reserves.
 He added that there has been massive corruption and fraud that had stagnated growth of the city.

 In Fort Portal City, the town clerk, Mr Innocent Ahimbisibwe, said government is in the planning cycle and they would soon get the resources needed.
Gulu City is still operating with the budget of the  municipality.

“Since we  were upgraded to a city status, there is nothing like funding and  the ministry has advised us to still operate within the budget of the municipality,’’ the acting Gulu City mayor, Mr George Labeja, said.

The mayor-elect, Mr Alfred Okwong, said they are going to follow up with the Ministry of Local Government over funding.  “If funds to run the city are not yet on our account of the city then, we need to follow up,” he said.

The new cities
Members of Parliament (MPs)  voted on the motion for creation of the new cities four days after they passed the 2020/21 Financial Year budget. The lawmakers however never appropriated resources to operationalise Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Mbale, Masaka, Fort Portal and Mbarara as new cities.

The failure to provide money in the National Budget means the cities cannot be fully activated. Also, Parliament did not enact a legislation to guide how the envisaged cities would be structured, organised and function. Issues of the political architecture and the technical organogram as well as power relations between the two remain unresolved.

Such a specific law would set out the legal framework for the establishment of the city, manner and level of funding, powers and functions of the cities, the leadership and extent/limitations on exercise of authority and illuminate responsibilities of office bearers to make them accountable.

Left unclarified, as Parliament has done, is confusion over these kinds of mandates, institutional jurisdictions and reporting lines/supervision have the potential to birth untamed rivalry as self-interested parties scurry for dominance.

Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA) and Urban Authorities Association of Uganda (UAAU) for instance have wrangled over the leadership of the new cities, as reported by the Daily Monitor on June 24.
UAAU claims it lobbied and did necessary leg work for municipalities that run under its aegis to be elevated to cities and, therefore, district leaders are unwelcome to usurp the leadership of the cities.

On the other hand, ULGA counter-argues that a city, according to Section 4 of the Local Government Act (CAP 243), is an equivalent of a district and it naturally should fall under ULGA.
One way to resolve the varied interpretation is to seek the advice of the Attorney General, the chief government legal adviser. Should this fail, or the counsel contested, the second option is petitioning the Constitutional Court to interpret this impugned provision.

It remains contested whether to situate them under Local Government ministry, which tabled the motion for their creation, or the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD), where the expertise for physical planning and urban development functions resides.

Lack of a clarified parent ministry will result in more confusion, cross-purpose instructions and reporting.
The other option would be for Parliament to enact a law to establish the legal and policy framework for the administration and management of the new cities.

Budgetary concerns. According to projections in the 2020/21 National Budget Framework Paper, it is in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years that the government expects to triple the allocation to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development from the current Shs172b to Shs565b and Shs525b, respectively.

Thus, these two financial years would denominate when the first 11 of the 15 approved cities become operational.If that is the calculation, as evidenced by the budget surge, two conclusions are possible.
First, a recognition that the Local Government ministry will not superintend the cities as the ministry’s budget is planned to remain at the current Shs1 trillion level over the next four financial years.

Furthermore, MLHUD submitted to Cabinet Secretariat the principles of an independent law that it expects to domicile the cities in the ministry, and the ministry officials are currently responding to comments from Cabinet.

Planning official says
Mr Justinian Niwagaba, the commissioner for Urban Planning and Administration in the Ministry of Local Government, however, said cities have not yet received funding because they were approved after the 2021 national budget approval.

“But in next financial year, there will be a budget for cities,” he said.
 “We  are in the  advanced stage of having human structures approved by the government, so the wage requirement will be reflected in the budget for cities,” he said.

Compiled by  Fred Wambede, Bill Oketch, Philip Wafula, Tausi Nakato, Rajab Mukombozi,Malik Fahad Jjingo, Wilson Kutamba, George Muron, Scovia Atuhaire & Cissy Makumbi .