Uganda collapsing under weight of big govt
Civilised societies across the globe are rejecting the idea of big governments -largely because they offer a fertile breeding ground for bad governance and corruption.
Dictators use big governments to reward their cronies in order to entrench themselves in power. This political strategy is very significant especially when a political leadership’s popularity dwindles.
And while all these political machinations are being carried these self-centered politicians conveniently ignore the fact that there is a price to everything we do. That’s why 26 out of the 51 new districts created by President Museveni’s government since 1990 are collapsing under the weight of debt.
Another 75 districts have written to the Ministry of Local Government begging for money because they are unable to generate enough cash on their own to deliver services. The depression being experienced in the new districts defeats the whole essence of the much touted decentralisation policy.
Decentralisation was meant to take services nearer to the people but with the creation of new districts much of the resources have had to be diverted to pay for local leaders’ salaries and allowances.
The local governments’ financial woes are compounded by even a bigger but similar national problem. President Museveni is already presiding over the largest government in Africa, 72 ministers, over 100 Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and their assistants plus a growing list of presidential advisers.
Ironically, the minister in charge of the bloated local governments, Kahinda Otafiire, and MP for Ruhinda is himself opposed to the splitting of his home district Bushenyi into more districts. Otafiire’s stance not to burden his people with additional administrative costs through the creation of new districts in Bushenyi should be applauded but it must also be put in context.
Otafiire is a senior member in Mr Museveni’s cabinet. He should therefore be among the cheer leaders for the government’s districts creation policy. He has instead stood his ground and opposed the division of Busnheyi district. What does this mean?
It means that there is a terrible lack of cohesion in public administration under the current regime. It further shows some government decisions are not taken at cabinet level where there is collective responsibility.
It’s clear from this experience and others witnessed over the years that some important decisions in this country are taken by just a few powerful politicians with little or no regard to techinical advice let alone public opinion.
But this individualistic approach to public service and governance does not only frustrate the technical arm of government, but also leads to waste of public resources.
It also offends the spirit of our national constitution which explicitly advocates good governance to allow for equitable utilisation of national resources. We are already having a failing public health sector, a deteriorating national road network, a confused education system (some UPE kids still study under trees), lack of clean water for the majority of the population etc.
We simply cannot afford the huge cost that comes with running a big government. The billions of shillings spent on sustaining a large cabinet and puffy local governments should instead be used to improve provision of public services.
And now that some ministers have also come out publicly to complain about poor pay and confess that they have never met the appointing authority, it’s time for the president trimmed his big government. Districts should be abolished and regional local governments set up to ensure effective public service delivery.
The writer is a journalist and advocate