Why oversight structures are important in the implementation of government programs!

Government has yet again introduced another development program; the Parish Development Model which was identified in NDPIII as a vehicle through which household incomes and the quality of life of Ugandans to be improved. Towards this, the Parish Development Model will be an instrument for improvement of income and welfare at household level. The Parish Development Model will focus on income generating activities, sustainable food production and nutrition, improving health and education outcomes, and sustainable environment and natural resources management. The success of this program is yet to be seen.

Our past experience at the lower local level has shown that the success of these programs depends on the functionality of the community oversight structures. Such structures include: Parish Development Committees (PDCs) at the parish levels, School Management Committees (SMCs) in schools, Health User Management Committees in Health Centers and District Integrity Promotion Forums (DIPFs) at the district level.

The Parish Development Committees are for example composed of the following; Local Council (LC II) Chairperson, Parish Chief, four LCI Chairpersons, one Councilor, one Youth representative, one PWD representative and one Elderly representative according to the Local Government Act. They were created to support technical officers such as Parish Chiefs to carry out their work effectively. Such responsibilities include; mobilizing citizens’ views on which services to prioritize, mobilizing local revenue, generating work plans and budgets and overseeing the implementation of national and local government policies and programs. Unfortunately, in some cases PDCs have never been established and lack resources for sustainability. Little wonder therefore that there are so many inefficiencies in service delivery at the parish level.

In a regional assessment carried out by ACTADE in 2019 in 30 sub counties and 8 town councils of the 8 districts of Kalungu, Butambala, Bukomansimbi, Gomba, Kyankwanzi, Kiboga, Mityana and Mubende, none had a functional PDC. In one of the districts, a Resident District Commissioner (RDC) did not know the composition of PDCs, suggesting a lack of understanding of what the committees are, and their mandate, by such an important official. Had they been existent and functional, committee members would take the lead in identifying service delivery needs in villages and present them for aggregation to the parish chiefs into work plans and budgets. In addition, they would play a critical role in monitoring government programs.

The reality however is that parish chiefs are expected to undertake all these responsibilities amidst logistical limitations i.e. not facilitated with motorbikes or cash to hire transport means and yet they have to reach all the villages to mobilize and report on the citizens’ views. To make matters worse, majority of the parish chiefs do not reside in the respective parishes and absenteeism is a common practice.

In a decentralized system, information is handed down from the sub county level to the parish level regarding services approved in a given financial year. However, there are times when critical information for decision making is delayed.  This points to serious limitations in team work and collaboration and such power dynamics enormously contribute to the failures of government programs where the blame is unfortunately placed on the parish chiefs. In conclusion, community oversight structures are very important for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of government programs and should be re-established for those not in existence. Their capacity should be strengthened to ensure that the well-intended programs are effectively implemented and are beneficial to the ordinary citizen.

By Winnie Muwanguzi

The writer is a Programs Manager at ACTADE.