The 1995 Uganda constitution in a number of sections and articles explicitly details the roles and the powers that citizens hold in influencing their governance including ensuring that development programmes meet the needs of every citizen regardless of who they are and their locality. The National Objectives and directive principles of state policy in the constitution provide; the democratic principles of governance, the role of citizens in development, accountability and duties of citizens.
Articles 1, 2, 17, 38 and 41 all detail the sovereignty of citizens including their civic rights to participate in the affairs of government and rights to access information. Relatedly, one of the objectives of the Local Government Act 1997 is “to ensure democratic participation in, and control of decision making by the people concerned”. The Access to Information Act 2005 provides the right to access information pursuant of article 41 of the constitution. Section 5 (1) of the Act in part reads “every citizen has a right of access to information and records in the possession of the state or any public body, except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the state……..”
While such versatile legal and policy frameworks for citizen’s participation in monitoring development programmes and service delivery by government exist, making ordinary citizens including civil society participate still remains a challenge. Majority of the citizens are less involved in following up and influencing development programmes and yet pay taxes which finance such programmes. This has partly contributed to the decimal performance of a number of development programmes, projects and service delivery with many unmet needs registered.
It is against this back drop that ACFODE organized training workshops for citizens and selected civil society actors in the districts of Amolatar and Oyam in the Lango Sub region in the use of Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) tools. The public expenditure tracking systems are entry points for citizens to influence the governance and development process of their local governments. The major focus is on making local governments’ accountable and political empowerment of citizens.
A total of 120 citizens; 50 males and 70 women were capacitated on how to use the tools to track incomes and expenditure in the education and health sectors but also cascade the information and tools to other citizens at the parish and village levels. Other areas of interest handled included monitoring and influencing decisions of duty bearers with an equal opportunity, diversity and gender lenses. This would enable the diverse groups of citizen’s resident within communities to equally participate and benefit from government development programmes. The selected citizens trained were urged to be mindful of the local government planning and budgeting process as a significant entry point in engaging with needs identification, prioritization and budgeting at different levels.
The overarching objective behind this intervention by ACFODE is to create a critical mass of citizens actively participating in their local governance processes and ultimately contribute towards situations where the needs of citizens are satisfactorily met by service providers.
“We are very appreciative of this training. Awareness has been created amongst the selected group of their duties and obligations in improving accountability. I am very optimistic of the results and I believe we shall get the culprits who are mismanaging funds meant for school development” Adonyo Peter, Inspector of school Oyam District.
“This initiative is going to go a long way in supporting and complementing our work as we strive towards providing satisfactory services in the health sector” Amandi Simon, Assistant District Health Officer, Oyam District.
The training was made possible with support from Diakonia under the project of “Strengthening community participation in local governance and promotion of women and girls rights in the Lango sub region.
Yossa Immaculate Daisy
Human Rights and Governance Department