The Minister of State for Planning in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Hon. David Bahati, has lauded the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) for putting people at the fore front of the programmes they support.
“I appreciate the support of World Bank and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre together with partners such as the Uganda Contract Management Coalition and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) for rendering support to the five District Local Governments in contract monitoring of social services in education, health and agriculture.
“As government, we are excited about this development where citizens and other stakeholders are involved in contracts monitoring thereby helping us to improve the service delivery to our citizens in various locations throughout the country.”
Hon Bahati made the remarks while officiating as Chief Guest at the AFIC and World Bank organized Social Accountability Learning Symposium held in April. AFIC is a beneficiary of the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability programme (GPSA).
AFIC has implemented the GPSA programme for the last five years to date and has during this time monitored about 160 contracts in the education, health and agriculture sectors of the country. During this time, service delivery has tremendously improved in the districts of operation as has the number of community monitors recruited to monitor the delivery of these services gone up. So far, there are about 240 community monitors in the districts of Ntungamo, Mityana, Nebbi, Mubende and Nakaseke where the project was piloted.
The Minister reiterated the Government of Uganda’s interest in putting people at the centre of all planning and welcomed all those who were here to help this end be achieved.
“I wish to assure the World Bank that as a Government and particularly through my Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, we take issues of citizen participation seriously in most of our programmes,” he said.
The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development has over the last several years signed grants and implemented programmes on behalf of the Government of Uganda in which a component of social accountability and citizens feedback and engagement are central. Notable among these are the following programmes; the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE), Youth Livelyhood Grants, and the Operation Wealth Creation, among others.
The Government has also established Barazas or town hall-styled meetings in which citizens views are sought on a number of issues and these are under the Office of Prime Minister with AFIC and partner organisations playing a leading role in mobilizing and coordinating these meetings to ensure citizens give their honest opinions on the way government programmes are implemented and where the need arises, necessary steps taken to work on areas that require our attention.
“As a matter of policy, we are committed to promoting transparency and accountability in all government institutions and agencies. It is little wonder, therefore, to see PPDA here, IGG, the Ministry of Ethics, and recently the creation of the Anti-corruption desk in the Office of the President, among others. All these are in place to make sure public institutions are accountable to the citizens they service,” explained minister Bahati.
Early this year, the President, H.E Yoweri Museveni committed to the fight against corruption by putting in place a special desk in his office to address corruption in public offices.
It is believed that social accountability in Uganda will further be enhanced through this gesture and by continuously working with development partners such as Civil Society Organisations and the Donor Community in the areas of Agriculture, Health and Education, as areas that often times have people at the centre.
The Government of Uganda has instituted a number of programmes that are citizen centred. These programmes include the Universal Primary Education, Universal Secondary Education and Operation Wealth Creation, among others.
“In health, you are aware of the programme on the primary health care where we have Village Health Teams (VHTs) recruited to ensure that communities have access to primary medical services as much as possible,” he emphasized.
On open contracting and procurement, Hon Bahati stated that this was an area in which the Government wanted more citizen participation, because the projects being delivered were for the betterment of the beneficiary communities and the same citizens were the people more present at the locations in which these projects were being implemented.
“It is my hope that citizens be given priority to participate and enhance on our social accountability work,” he said.
Adding that: “We look forward to tap into the available opportunities for us like regional integration, partnerships and linkages with regional and international bodies as we help our people achieve the best.”
AFIC is a pan African body that has been active in Uganda over the last decade. Over this time, AFIC has empowered the citizens in the concerned districts to make use of information requests. Through these requests, an enormous amount of information has been released to the citizens, but also, government officials have been put on notice that the citizens are now aware of their rights, duties and obligations. They thus can no longer be taken for a ride when it comes to demanding social services is concerned. The linkages brought to Uganda by AFIC based on the pan-African presence has also helped ease the way work is done here. For instance, all the challenges faced by citizens in Uganda in regards to social services, has been faced by others before, how they dealt with this, is what AFIC is bringing to the discussion.
An attribute the minister acknowledged.
“We are proud of our civil society organisations especially the likes of AFIC and others present who have been our good allies in this Vision 2040 cause of our ‘Competitive Economy for National Development’. We note that as long as you keep updating us on your work and providing us with the reports for the monitoring activities you conduct, then we shall certainly act on the issues that require our attention,” he explained.
He added: “We also invite you to continue working with us and other government bodies in a structured manner which will create mutual benefit for all of us, but most importantly contribute to the Uganda Vision of 2040.”
Hon Bahati summed up by calling upon social accountability ‘practioners’ to find innovative ways that could support the citizens and institutions in improving participation in social service programmes.