The government has yet again ignored calls by the UN and local civil society to streamline and rationalize ministries, departments and agencies, a move that would be vital in achieving the third National Development Plan.
In 2019, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) advised the government to carry out urgent policy and institutional reforms before starting implementation of the NDP III.
The UN agency said that this would help the country have policy directions and institutions able to plan and implement projects effectively. In 2017, President Museveni directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to spearhead the reform process, as part of the efforts to reduce the government wage bill and harmonise salary structures.
Dr Rugunda said this would do away with duplication of roles among MDAs and enhance service delivery and effective governance. However, three years later, this is yet to happen. Instead, sustained and new instances of duplication continues to be evident.
NDP III aims to fast track realization of results from the previous plans and therefore, a programmatic approach to planning is adopted, as opposed to planning and budgeting based on an entire sector. The new approach to public spending under the NDP III, or the Project Based Budget approach, calls for harmonization between agencies, so that should different ministries have separate plans for a similar project, they will be able to implement it jointly.
This will prevent duplication and save funds. But there is fear that this will not be possible, with the existence of so many independent agencies and authorities, and many of them with overlapping roles. Giving an example of establishment of industrial parks, the Executive Director, Civil Society Advocacy Group, Julius Mukunda says that even if agencies coordinated on a project, there would be misuse of resources.
More than 60 agencies, commissions or authorities were to be disbanded, merged with others or re-turned to ministries as departments. But Public Service minister Wilson Muruli Mukasa says the process requires amendments in legislation.
“Most of these agencies are created by acts of parliament and you cannot just abolish them,” he says.
There are also fears that some of the agencies are highly indebted and dissolving them as they are could raise legal issues. As the 10th parliament comes to an end, it is increasing unlikely that it will solve the issue.
But Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director, Food Rights Alliance says creation of new agencies has become a source of income for a few instead of for development.
She urges the next government to complete the process.
This comes at a time that the government faces an uphill task raising funding for the 2021/22 national budget worth 45,trillion shillings, with most of it expected from loans and grants.
The government will have to look for new ways of raising domestic revenue, alongside cautious spending. The Executive Director Uganda Road Sector Support Initiative, Sam Mutabazi advises government to as much as possible, put most of the development resources at the lowest level of government, instead of creating new agencies at the top where there is no creation of wealth.
Do you have a story or an opinion to share?: Email us at [email protected]