Decentralisation and institutional mechanisms of accountability in Uganda’s local governments: a case study of Adjumani District
MetadataShow full item record
The world over, decentralization is increasingly becoming one of the key development strategies in the quest to deliver goods and services efficiently and effectively to the citizenry. It is widely believed that decentralization increases popular participation in decision making because it brings political and administrative decision-making and control over resource allocation and service provision to the point of delivery to enhance effectiveness, promote a sense of ownership and improve accountability. The current attempts to broaden and deepen local accountability in Uganda have been premised on the Local Governments (LG) where the local people exercise effective representative democracy through directly elected councils. To guide the LGs in fulfilling their constitutional mandate, the government has enacted laws and developed regulations, operational manuals, guidelines and policy papers all aimed at establishing sound administrative and financial practices and decision-making processes that promote transparency and accountability. The government put in place key institutions with wide ranging legal powers to exact accountability in LGs. The key offices charged with ensuring accountability include; line ministries, standing committees of the councils, Internal Audit departments, Auditor General’s representatives, LGPAC, the IGG and the community itself. It was assumed that with the decentralization of power, and the provision of comprehensive legal and institutional framework, accountability would be improved at the districts. However, with experience of decentralization in Adjumani district and other local governments in Uganda, there have arisen many reports such as diversion of funds, financial impropriety, some anti-graft institutions colluding with councilors to contravene rules and regulations among other things, which means there was a problem with this assumption. The study was to find out whether this assumption had been achieved in Adjumani district or not, thus leaving a theoretical gap to be investigated. It is within this context that this study is derived. The aims of this study were threefold. First, to identify the institutional mechanisms used to enhance accountability in the LGs. Second, to assess the effectiveness of these institutional mechanisms in improving accountability. Third, to establish the constraints that affects these institutional mechanisms and suggests ways of strengthening local accountability. The study was undertaken in Adjumani district LG. It involved a sample size of eighty respondents drawn from the district head quarter, the town council and the five sub counties using both random and purposive sampling techniques. The data was collected using a triangulation method in which in-depth interviews, structured and semi-structured questionnaires and review of documents were used. Qualitative data was analyzed using content analysis while quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics such as percentages, frequencies, graphs and pie charts. Its findings revealed that indeed the decentralization policy had improved political, administrative and financial accountability. The policy under the fiscal Decentralization Strategy (FDS) shifted the core planning and budgeting functions from the centre and the district to the sub counties and thereby promoted the involvement of the community, a sharp contrast to the period before decentralization. The practices that check and balance performance and the budgetary process allows for direct accountability for lack of achievement in the previous year. Key informants were of the view that the institutional mechanisms were effective in ensuring accountability. However, the non-key informants were skeptical about their effectiveness. There were numerous constraints that affect the promotion of accountability and therefore building accountability at the local government levels. These require a rigorous, consistent and highly motivated approach that tackles all the factors that constrain promotion of accountability. Due to the challenges, several recommendations have been made in order to improve accountability in the local governments. For instance, there was need to ensure adequate resource for these institutions to perform, timely implementation of results of inquiries and investigations, raise a minimum standard for entry into lower councils to secondary education, sensitize the public on how to demand for accountability among other things.