Parliament has spent a portion of its first 100 days, in oversight duties and one such engagement was the inquiry on the appropriation of the Covid-19 funds.
Central to their discourse was on how the relief packages were rolled out in the second lockdown.
It begs the notion that rather than spend money in commissions of inquiry, government ought to have a working approach to relief distribution for Ugandans in the event of any disaster.
The recently lifted lockdown had government disburse cash relief rather than food relief as was the case during the 2020 lockdown. The exercise cost Shs5 billion for the vulnerable persons.
It cited logistical constraints and quality control challenges, among others as justification for the change.
However, the somewhat successful exercise still suffered familiar challenges including double payments, payment of non-vulnerable people and ghost recipients, among others.
Therefore, unless certain inbuilt inefficiencies are addressed, changing the form of relief given will not avail much success as the recently concluded cash handout as proven.
The absence of external monitoring and lack of independent evaluation of relief initiatives continues to impede efficiency given the complexities that come with government auditing.
The parliamentary enquiry into both exercises attempts to provide an evaluation but it is hard for government to audit government given its enmeshed structure.
Without inbuilt checks during process design it is tricky to monitor and/or assess success of the initiative afterwards.
When asked to table the list of cash beneficiaries, the prime minister took a while yet this was after the conclusion of the exercise. When finally presented it was difficult to confirm if each received the cash or even worse if these were the targeted beneficiaries.
As was with the food relief, no follow up was done on whether or not either package achieved its purposes of cushioning their beneficiaries.
Aside from incorporating monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in project design, independent audits and evaluation for unbiased feedback should be considered.
In execution of relief initiatives, government ought to provide for a healthy market competition for offer of services. That way it is left to market forces and not the monopoly of particular players in the private sector as it was with the food relief.
Free, fair and open bidding for contracts should be considered and government entities providing similar services should be no exception.
This “protectionism” undermines hard work and fosters the incompetence common among some chosen contractors and government entities. Coupled with lack of monitoring and evaluation it is the recipe behind persistent challenges plaguing these and many other government initiatives.
Together the absent M&E and “sheltering tendencies” can be categorised as administrative issues, the responsibility for which falls squarely on the government.
A new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology compared cash vouchers to in-kind assistance under BPNT. It revealed that indeed administration more than relief form is a key determining factor in the success of any relief programme.
Therefore, be it cash, food or both, the same challenges will persist albeit manifesting differently unless the government creates effort in addressing administrative gaps.
Ms Getrude Mbaseege is a Resident Research Associate at The Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies.