Until February 2017, Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)’s and Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition (UCMC)’s efforts to access contracts in the select local governments were futile because contracts’ information disclosure was a new animal in the eyes and ears of the public officials. Most of the public officials didn’t understand this whole phenomenal until they were trained by Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) on their responsibility to disclose information as required of them in the Access to Information Act 2005.
AFIC trained Public Officials, Civil Society Organizations and 40 Community Monitors on access to information and open contracting. Following the training and trust built between AFIC and government agencies, AFIC managed to access 29 contracts from Nebbi, Ntungamo and Nakaseke through which the first monitoring report was developed. The report findings were characterized by; mismatching information, fraud, collusion, use of less competitive methods of procurement and lack of access to information. Through the validation meetings, AFIC shared the findings with district management teams, for which they were acknowledged as a true representation of their local governments.
During the monitoring of Nyamabaare Primary school in Ntungamo district; Edward Natamba one of the community monitors, realized that the contractor had fixed a lightning conductor on only one out of seven blocks of the school. He took the initiative to consult AFIC on the specifications in the contract. It was discovered that all building blocks were supposed to have lightning conductors, this he brought to the attention of the contractor, who said it was an oversight. Indeed, the lightning conductors were fixed.
Also, hoarding materials were recovered from the contractor, for which they were used by the school to construct staff houses, all this was achieved with the effort of school and parents’ committees. Due to the increased number of the pupils, the school was upgraded to have Primary Seven level from Primary Four-Level. They also committed to contributing to food for the teachers. By August 2019, the parents had raised UGX 1 million for the installation of solar power which improved the lighting of the school. To this effect, the school introduced a boarding section for Primary 7 boys and hired a private mathematics teacher.
The parents’ active participation and involvement in the process was key in making things happen. The principal lesson learnt from this experience is that, when communities are engaged and involved in projects meant for them, they will own it and work towards making it better. This journey exhibits the communities’ willingness to participate and make substantial contributions towards development outcomes in their community. This story is evidence of how social accountability can lead to development outcomes.