On April 26th, 2023, the Africa Freedom of Information Centre held an engagement meeting with district officials, municipal councils, and stakeholders in Gulu district at the Dove hotel in Gulu city.
The purpose of the conference was to examine the results of data analysis on procurement processes and how to improve service delivery and value for money.
Several development partners, stakeholders, government officials, procurement authorities, and members of the media attended this highly intriguing event.
In kicking off the ceremony, Lagu Samuel Jones, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Gulu District, stated that the largest concern remained corruption, which affects service delivery.
“We need to work together, utilize the available resources to maximum develop our communities. This takes efforts and resistance from being corrupt.” Mr. Lagu said.
He lauded AFIC for being so diligent in developing individuals’ capacity to request and access information. In addition to AFIC’s efforts to monitor service performance in the district.
According to Charity Komujjurizi, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator at Africa Freedom of Information Centre, AFIC envisions an Africa in which citizens have access to information for their growth. This is in accordance with Ugandan Constitution Article 41.
Charity Komujjurizi, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator at Africa Freedom of Information Centre, speaking to district officials at the event at Dove hotel.“We work to promote transparency and accountability. We do this through community monitors that support our services through follow up on government projects and service delivery in their communities. These use the right to information to understand different contracts and use the information for accountability purposes.”
She stated that AFIC has conducted a data analysis based on procurement data proactively posted on the respective counties’ national public procurement platforms and websites. She stated that this was carried out in five countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda.
Komujjurizi noted that the research revealed a link between disclosure and the average number of suppliers in Uganda and Kenya.
She also disclosed that different issues continue to face procurement processes not only in Uganda, but throughout Africa.
“There is lack of disclosure and transparency, lack of inclusiveness, fraud, collusion and lack of value for money, corruption, all of which undermine delivery of basic services especially in health and education to ordinary citizens.” Komujjurizi explained.h
She encouraged district leaders and procurement officers to respond quickly to requests by citizens on accessing contract information.
“Kindly provide copies of the contract to citizens for easy follow up on service delivery. Disclosure makes contract implementation better especially when members request and receive this information.”
Several issues were highlighted during the interaction, including one concerning the construction of the out-patient department at Lapeta Health Centre.
The contract provided for the building of a pit latrine and an incinerator which up to then, these had not been put in place.
Komujjurizi stated that AFIC had attempted to follow up on the problem and that clarity will be provided wit the participation of district procurement authorities at the event.
“When we first visited Lapeta Health Centre 11, the construction of the OPD was underway, but the builder had delayed the work. We noticed that the facility was supposed to be finished in July 2021, but it wasn’t when we went in October 2021.” She revealed.
“My team and I passed by the facility yesterday, but the pit latrine and incinerator are still not operational.” Two years have passed. “What happened?” She went on to say.
In response to Charity, Yoweri Idiba, the assistant district health officer in Gulu district, stated that budget difficulties existed. This, he claimed, comes with an increase in the building’s standard to match the city’s prestige.
“Phase 1 we had a different contractor, this was before the city, the terms of reference changed to fit the status and we had to get another contractor for phase two. However, this came at a cost. So we could no longer raise enough for the pit latrine. And the incinerator we decided to upgrade.” Idiba explained.
Daniel Obol, a community Monitoring officer, expressed worry over Gulu district and Gulu city’s failure to disclose public information on the public procurement Portal (PPP).
Opio Edmond, the procurement officer for the Gulu district, responded that the PPP is not the sole venue for displaying public information.
“I don’t believe we have only the PPP where information can be found.” We also have a website and a bulletin board.” He replied.
This sparked a lot of conversation among the participants about the matter.
Ceaser Ochiti, chairperson of the contract committee, stated that procurement officers were having difficulties entering data into the Procurement portal.
“The PPP is complicated; perhaps if we can gain access to simpler tools that members can use.” It has the potential to improve the presentation of public information.” He added, “On the Lapeta issue, we need to understand the underlying issues; it may sound intentional, but it could be a financial capacity issue.”
Community monitor Daniel Obbo emphasized that procurement officers must make it a point to display public information without hesitation.
According to Ojok Robert of the Health Unit Management Committee (HUMC), the excuse of not comprehending the Portal demonstrates leadership incompetence in the digital age. He stated that members must understand the significance of disclosing information.
Oyella Mildred, a community monitor expressed worry that office personnel frequently refuse to provide access to information, even when requested. She believes that politicians must recognize that every citizen has a right to public information.
In response to Oyella’s comment, Oryem Auric, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, Gulu district, stated that leaders must recognize that even when they are doing a lot, keeping information to themselves is self-blackmail.
“It is critical to provide comments. When we choose to hide information from the public, we do a disservice to both ourselves and the community. AFIC has done an excellent job. Let us learn to be open in our communication with the people.” He insisted.
Charity urged leaders to join AFIC’s efforts to improve service delivery through greater transparency and accountability.