By Ofwono Opondo
On his inauguration, May 12, 2016, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni declared this term, “Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo,” warning government officials that playing around with responsibilities, resources, and service delivery won’t be tolerated. To critics and cynics, it carried a double sword, because, it implied that previously, President Museveni knowingly tolerated jokers, non-performers,and even the corrupt. And yes, he has publicly talked about them many times.
There is, need to reflect on government performance especially in the last decade and appreciate where we have excelled, but also introspect where it has been below average, stagnated, or at risk of reversals.
While the president has issued his twenty three “strategic guidelines,” some analysts believe they are too many, and therefore will spread national resources and efforts wide and thin. These guidelines need further scrutiny to narrow them down to few critical priorities that can be funded adequately to cause the desired impact for socioeconomic transformation by 2020, if the middle income status is to be achieved.
Enforcing personal and collective responsibilities too are critical. Also, some major longterm projects like energy roads and railways that have tied down huge capital yet cannot bring quick returns need re-thinking. Top on the priorities should be tackling the plight of the sixty eight percent (68%) households that remain in the informal and irregular economy particularly agriculture, livestock and service industry. It is this, which may cause inclusive growth.
Sectors that have performed relatively well, like national security, governance, health and education need to be consolidated but without spending too much money. There is need to look into where inefficiencies persist and prioritize better, remove wastage, and improve efficiency. There is near stagnation in critical public service delivery social
sectors of public health and education which are deep sores in our eyes. The very low quality caused by deliberate negligence is unbelievable, and many public officials area real pain in the system and don’t deserve their paychecks.
Elected politicians-ministers, MPs and LCs seem to have absconded from duty especially monitoring implementation of government programs in their respective areas but never-the-less still demand to be accorded full respect. While we may not succeed in preventing MPs from having many of their bad ways, they must know that they are creating major and antagonistic contradictions with the wider public, and the cost will be high in future.
The recent surprise visits to national hospitals of Mulago and Naguru, as well as Nakawuka health centre IV by President Museveni revealed bitter stories that are spread countrywide, and Ugandans demand better, and not to have business as usual. Expectations were
high as the public awaited Museveni’s announcement of a new cabinet in the hope it would be a clean sweep, but many have since began to lower their expectations.
His several interfaces with the general population during the election campaigns had given him insights about the performance of the public officials.
Since inauguration, there have been four major retreats of senior government officials all attended by President Museveni in an effort to refocus collective attention to duty, identify the critical obstacles, reset public priorities, achieve consensus, and plot the way forward. However, at each of those retreats, there have been loud lamentations and procrastination because the civil service machinery which is critical and supposed to be the engine is moving at a painfully slow and uncaring speed, leaving little doubt it needs a shake up.
Sectors that have performed relatively well, like national security, governance, health and education need to be consolidated but without spending too much money. There is need to look into where inefficiencies persist and prioritize better, remove wastage, and improve efficiency.
President Museveni at the Kyankwanzi retreat for newly elected NRM MPs implored them not to expect salary increment because the country needed to complete major infrastructure projects that is hoped will cause socio-economic transformation, but this, has fallen on deaf ears.
The president has consistently put Accounting Officers to task to explain why performance is below expected standards. Some ministers and PS’s have even tried to duck when they couldn’t find appropriate answers, and others often stammered into the microphone.
President Museveni at the Kyankwanzi retreat for newly elected NRM MPs implored them not to expect salary increment because the country needed to complete major infrastructure projects that is hoped will cause socioeconomic transformation, but this, has fallen on deaf ears. He lectured them as he has done to most Ugandan elites about the dangers of
prioritizing consumerism at the expense of investing in national security and critical infrastructure like transportation, energy, water, health and education that in turn deepen transformation. The president has been resolute in this thinking, unfortunately, as has been the case in the past, politicking has taken the upper hand, which is distressing. How else, does one explain the continuous creation of new administrative and political units which are all cost centres, not adding value to productivity!
It is not a secret that quite a number of public officials have been paying lip service to service delivery hiding under bureaucratic procedures and sheer corruption. Also, there is glaring incompetence, negligence, and complicity to fraud which all lead to wastage, diversion and inefficiencies. Cases like X-Ray machines or ambulances lying idle at hospitals for years without being installed, or repaired, and the same facilities having no power and running water,when there is supposedly ‘competent’ management are just but tips of the iceberg.
As a result, many government programmes are not implemented, behind schedule, and of poor quality including those within the reach of political leaders. And in spite of the structural reforms that have been undertaken to combat the malaise and inefficiencies, or reduce them to the minimum, service delivery is not to the expected standards. Uganda is a poor country and shouldn’t afford the luxury of tolerating incompetents and thieves.
Clearly, there is need for a radical shift with view to merge many government agencies to reduce duplication, wastage, rivalry, and salary disparities especially by pressure groups. Public officials must adapt to new and modern technology to improve efficiency as they down size costs.
There be must an aggressive effort to expand the tax base by bringing in more eligible people and entities into the tax bracket, crack down on tax defaulters particularly government bodies and big businesses so that domestic revenue improves. Equally, the policy on local content and presidential directive that public entities should buy Uganda products must be vigorously enforced to create and spur an internal sustainable market. No effort should be spared in making Uganda an attractive investment and tourism destination so as to attract affordable capital, appropriate technology, and skills transfer which are critical to improving our export earnings. Reports from the ongoing construction at both Isimba and Karuma Hydro power projects are not pleasant.
Although the president, months back, directed the minister of Energy to urgently handle reports of negligence by the contractors and allegations of possible corruption by ministry officials little seem to have been corrected. The contractors who appear protected by some bureaucrats in the line ministry are still said to be ignoring technical recommendations from the consultants, situations that shouldn’t be tolerated.
The bureaucrats must realize that there has to be a complete paradigm shift in the way they work. Several grand infrastructures have been launched. It is these programmes that will shift the nature of our economy into a modern one. And the time for this is now not tomorrow!