Cabinet Approves 20 New Districts
A special cabinet meeting has approved the creation of 20 new districts.
If approved by Parliament, this addition will bring the number of districts in the country to 132, from the current 112.
Sources have told The Observer that Local Government minister, Adolf Mwesige (Bunyangabu MP), presented a report containing the proposed new districts for approval during the July 6 cabinet meeting.
These are: Bunyangabu, Butebo, Bugweri, Kagadi, Kakuuto, Kakumiro, Kapelebyong, Kasanda, Kazo and Kilak. Others are: Kitagwenda, Kyadondo, Kyotera, Nabilatuk, Namisindwa, Omoro, Pakwach, Rubanda, Rukiga and Rwampara.
Sources in cabinet have told us that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is the MP for Kinkinzi West in Kanungu district, expressed concern that Kinkizi had been left out of the list, yet the people there have been demanding district status too.
Splitting Kanungu would put Mbabazi, the NRM secretary general, in a separate district from that of his local rival, Dr Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkizi East). Museveni, we have been told, said during the meeting that he would convene the NRM parliamentary caucus this week (yesterday) to debate the matter and particularly to persuade the lawmakers to approve Rukiga district, in which sources say, the President has a vested political interest.
Local Government minister Adolf Mwesige could not be reached for a comment and the minister of state, Alex Adroa Onzima (Maracha), said he had not attended the said meeting.
“I had travelled to Maracha on Friday. I didn’t attend,” he said when The Observer raised him on the issue of the proposed districts.
The increase in the number of districts has always drawn criticism from various sections of the public, with civil society groups arguing that it diverts human and financial resources from the existing districts, hence undermining the capacity of local governments to effectively deliver services.
In a 2009 paper titled: The Cost of Public Administration, Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), a non-governmental organisation, argued that the bloated cabinet, the growing bureaucracy around the Office of the President, and the rising number of districts were the main obstacles to Uganda’s good governance, poverty eradication efforts and attainment of economic transformation.
ACODE argued that by creating more districts, the government was “chewing more than it [could] swallow”. Indeed sources have told The Observer that the government will need at least Shs 20bn in capitation grants for the 20 districts if approved.
Such resources, ACODE argues, could otherwise be invested in infrastructure, basic education, healthcare and clean drinking water for the poor. On the contrary, the government’s justification for creating new districts is that it brings social services closer to the people.
However, the main driver appears to be political, as new districts are popular with masses at the grassroots who form the bulk of the voting population. At the launch of Nakaseke district in 2002, Museveni said: “Although a new district takes a lot of money, this is the democracy we fought for; people must ask for what they want, and get it.”
However, research shows that districts are performing below expectation in as far as service delivery is concerned. The 2009 Annual Assessment of Minimum Conditions and Performance Measures for Local Governments painted a grim picture.
The exercise assessed local governments in areas such as compliance levels with legal and policy guidelines in finance and accounting, procurement and disposal regulations and capacity to manage discretionary development funds.
Of the 80 districts then, only 42% were rewarded for good performance; 30% were labeled ‘static’, meaning there was no improvement; while 28% were penalised for underperformance. In all, more than half of the districts did not meet basic service delivery standards.
Nevertheless, on April 22, 2010 the government tabled before Parliament a request seeking approval for the creation of 14 new districts. Two years later, the government is about to table yet another request for the approval of more districts.
Source: The Observer