Participants of a multi-stakeholder accountability forum organised by Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in partnership with Oxfam have made an urgent call for government to increase funding for accountability institutions such as the Inspectorate of Government, Office of the Auditor General and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority. Participants also called for training and access to public information by community accountability structures especially School Management Committees and Health Unit Management Committees.
The call was made during a national dialogue to discuss a report on assessment of Accountability Structures in Uganda conducted by AFIC in collaboration with CEWIT under the Finance for Development Project funded by Oxfam. There are reducing budgets to accountability bodies meant to facilitate the institutional core mandate of the operations of government and in most instances, government bodies are self-assigning roles that have already been assigned to other bodies, further straining the limited resources that are constantly shrinking.
For instance, in the 2013/14 financial year, the Office of the Auditor General had a budget reduction of sh10b, two years later in the 2016/17 financial year; the Inspectorate of Government faced a cut of sh54b. These are some of the bodies charged with matters to do with accountability in Uganda.
There are several reports of the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) and the Uganda Police’s CID department spreading their resources thin in the name of investigating public officers named or implicated in one scandal or another. These double investigations have usually been an act in futility as the court system has stepped in to stop one body or another. This does not speak to the funds already lost.
These were some of the findings released on Wednesday April 4, of an Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) led-study in the 15 districts of mostly Northern and Eastern Uganda on accountability structures. The study was conducted in collaboration with SEATINI, OXFAM and CEW-IT.
Other findings of the study indicated that there was limited allocation of funds to core functions of prosecution and civil litigation making it impossible to undertake investigations to their logical conclusions, limited resources to support day to day business of the accountability structures like DPACs and district integrity forums and local government accountability structures meeting less often than constituted.
Reagan Okumu, the chairperson of the Local Government Public Accounts Committee (DPAC) in Parliament, decried the high rate of corruption at the local governments, the seemingly untouchable persons and a lack of political will to see these persons prosecuted.
“Some government officials are not investigated despite being implicated in corruption,” he said.
Gilbert Sendugwa, the executive director of AFIC, questioned why Parliament kept passing supplementary budgets for institutions and government ministries without questioning why those same institutions habitually ask for supplementary budgets.
“The fact that every year Parliament approves a supplementary budget of same institutions year-in-year out involving substantial sums of money raises questions about Parliament’s ability to control government spending,” Observed Mr. Sendugwa.
Budget cuts to sectors that should bring to book those involved in corruption tendencies is more than telling for a government that has time and again pledged to fight corruption in all its forms.
Not all is lost, though, over the years, there have been attempts, by some individuals to bring to book those who have been implicated in corruption, more needs to be done if this is to become a thing of the past.
To achieve this, however, the government needs to increase funding and staffing for entities that are charged with the investigation and prosecution of those implicated in corruption and related activities. There is also need to address the functionality of internal audit departments and see to it that all government departments implement the Access to information Act (2005).