By Moses Sserwanga
Parliament has this year created more than 20 new districts bringing the number of
the local administrative units to an unprecedented 119.
Uganda is one of the smallest countries in Africa with more districts than any
other country on the continent. Algeria, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of
Congo are the largest countries in Africa but each has less than 60 districts.
DR. Congo has 41 districts, Sudan 54 and Algeria only 34 districts.
This has certainly placed great strain on the limited physical and human
resources with some districts having hardly any competent technocrats to run
them. Another area of our public life that has been affected by the
proliferation of districts in this country, is the coordination of both
policy and institutional structures.
Although there have been efforts to develop and reform the decentralisation
programme with government considering a more advanced approach to public
administration through the E- government project, no tangible- positive results
have been realised that far. The E-government system installed by a Chinese
company Hauwei to help ministries coordinate their activities without
officers necessarily moving places, has not been optimally utilised .
Often the craze for new districts has been driven by political imperatives
without sustained planning to take into account the costs and what it takes to
deliver quality, adequate and timely services to the majority rural poor.
That’s why government should fast track the implementation of the E-government
E- government is a revolutionary concept that has given public administration a
new meaning in some of the more advanced countries like China. In china
alone ,the E-government model has helped transform local administration -
enabling improved coordination between the central , provincial and local
administrative units .
The successful example of this model can be borrowed from China’s western
mountainous province of Chengdu where a standard service oriented
E-government was created just six years ago and its now serving between 2-3
million people a year.
With this model, the central and provincial governments are in position to
speedily coordinate the operations of 43 ministries at a one stop center . For
instance if you are a foreign investor and you want to set up business in
Chengdu city , you don’t have to run from one ministry to another. All you need
to do is visit the Chengdu E- government service facility with highly
centralised service windows to address almost all people’s needs at reduced
cost and time.
This has created transparency, led to reduction in administrative costs and
red tape-ensuring a good business environment that is the hall mark of china’s
tremendous economic growth. With the e-goverment model the public is in
constant touch with the local administrators to determine public policy and the
pace of social and economic advancement. Public servants are monitored
through CCTV to ensure that they report for duty on time and attend to public
affairs with a professional tenacity that allows the Chinese people to work 24/7.
This approach is also quite significant because its has altered democratic
governance as it traditionally constituted - making nonsense of the quest by
any public servant / politician to make arbitrary decisions without the
approval of the people governed.
It has also opened up space for the leaders at all levels to exercise
creative policy engineering often needed to lift the economy . This can
perhaps explain why china , only this week ,became the second largest
economy in the world effectively overtaking Japan the hitherto, perennial
occupier of the number two position after the United States of America.
Now that our leaders are hell bent at creating as many districts as they can
possibly be, let them at least embrace the E- government model to scale down on
the costs of public administration and provide quality services to the people
in reasonable time.
The writer is a journalist and advocate