Local governments have asked the central government to empower them fiscally in order to strengthen service delivery in the 2019/20 financial year.
Speaking on Thursday during the National Budget Conference and Economic Growth Forum for the 2019/20 financial year, George Mutabazi who heads Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA) made a case for actualizing fiscal decentralization.
The conference was themed “Industrialization for job creation and shared prosperity”.
Mutabazi argued that there is an increasing shift of powers from the local governments to the central government which has undermined the model of decentralization and has affected the way services are extended to the masses.
“There is a weakened and almost obsolete policy of decentralization. The government has continued to centralize us. We don’t have much. In order for this budget to be implemented properly, you need to empower us financially,” he told delegates at Serena Hotel Kampala.
The conference was presided over by Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and attended by Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija, State Minister for Planning, David Bahati among other Ministers and government officials.
Mutabazi who is the district chairman for Lwengo mentioned that critical sectors like agriculture which drive the economy are based in the local governments which necessitates a stronger roles such as implementation for these entities.
“We need more money in local governments than at the centre. Give us the money, and come and supervise. If we fail, put us in prison,” he urged.
He noted that the industrialization and agriculture on which the 2019/20 budget framework is hinged both thrive on inputs and products that originate from the grassroots. For this reason, Mutabazi pushed for a sytem in which local governments steer the country’s economic agenda.
“How can we implement service delivery when the money is at the centre? There is need to put emphasis on local economic development,” he said.
He said that there are ongoing efforts to organize local governments into regional blocs in order to leverage their respective resources to boost exports.
Mutabazi proposed additional funding to local governments from the current 12% (of the national budget) to at least 20% if their impact is to be meaningful.
Similar comments were made by the Executive Director of Civil Society Budgetary Advocacy Group (CSBAG), Julius Mukunda who said that reverting of services and finances to Ministries instead of local governments is retrogressive.
“We look forward to government strengthening fiscal decentralization where the local governments are given more resource to deliver services to the people,” Mukunda said.
It comes at a time when Members of Parliament are pushing for the implementation of the regional governments established in Article 178 of the Constitution for effective service delivery.
Buliisa County MP, Stephen Mukitale Biraahwa recently moved a motion to operationalise Article 178 of the Constitution, which allows two or more districts to cooperate to form a regional government.
Mukitale wants the regional governments to be defined according to the demarcations that existed at the time of colonialism including Buganda, Busoga, Budama, Bugisu, Teso, Karamoja, Lango, Acholi, West Nile, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole, Bukedi and Kigezi, and for major regional towns to be elevated to cities to decongest Kampala and take services closer to the people.
During Thursday’s discussion, emphasis was put on policies that will drive inclusive economic growth. Participants also welcomed the recent move by Cabinet to cut down on wasteful expenditure by reducing the size of government.