After adopting decentralization as a governing system, many Ugandan districts counting Wamala, adopted participatory budgeting to develop efficient service delivery to their citizens.
Problems and Purpose
Wamala district adopted participatory budgeting as one among many decentralization processes to satisfy the requirements imposed by international aid entities and the increased public demand for a federal system from civilians. The aim was to promote citizens' involvement in the budgeting process to improve the quality of services delivered by the local government.
Background History and Context
In east-central Africa, between the west of Kenya and the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Uganda occupies a territory of 241,038 sq km with a population estimated at 46,205,893 in 2022.
After being declared a British protectorate in 1894, Uganda gained its independence 68 years later, in 1962. Since then, Uganda has been experiencing political turmoil and internal conflicts for nearly two decades. The civil strife found the political instability a fertile ground for burgeoning. In January 1986, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) took over the country's presidency through Yoweri Museveni and ended the internal war. Namely, the two decades of turmoil caused widespread devastation in the country . Subsequently, the new government needed external aid to rehabilitate it, execute its new reconstruction program and establish its political legitimacy. Besides other developing countries, the Ugandan government asked for international aid assistance. In response, funding entities imposed the National Public Management (NPM) reforms and the decentralization of political power as a requirement for accessing international funding . Therefore, the new government provoked several reforms regarding many aspects of Uganda, counting its local governance system.
Following persistent demands for a federal governance system by Buganda, the NRM government adopted decentralization as its local governance system in 1993. The goal was to deliver better poverty-related services to civilians by bringing services closer to the people and encouraging local participation . Subsequently, budget participation was adopted to improve their governance system and include the people in decision-making processes. Thus, many local governments, including the Wamala district local government (WDLG), adopted participatory budgeting. Regarding WDLG, the first establishment of participatory budgeting was in 2000. Interestingly, WLDG participatory budgeting's performance in rural and urban settings has been highly rated .
In his paper, Saturninus describes the WDLG structure to readers:
"The structure of WDLG is the same as for all local governments in Uganda, where counties, town boards, parishes, and villages are administrative units with only judicial and administrative powers; municipal councils (MCs), municipal divisions (MD), town councils (TCs) and sub-counties are lower local governments (LLG) with political, executive powers and financial autonomy within their areas of jurisdiction, as per Section 30 of the Local Government Act 1997 and 2006 . The district local government, which is a higher local government, has supervisory and advisory powers over LLGs within its area of jurisdiction. WDLG, with 24 local governments and 854 administrative units, has the largest number of local governments and administrative units ".
The earliest form of participatory budgeting traces back to 1989 in Porto Alegre to include citizens in budgeting by improving their involvement .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) imposed NPM reforms counting decentralization on developing countries as a requirement for providing aid and accessing donor funds. In response, the Ugandan central government pressured local governments to implement PB. Thus, the adoption of PB was an obligation rather than a choice.
Supranational agencies like Danida and World bank have been sending funds to the NRM government since 1987. Local governments receive nearly 95% of their funding from the transfers of the central government.
PB processes in Uganda comprehend the district level. The PB process starts when the central government sends its guidelines to a district's local government. It communicates the Indicative Planning Figures (IPF) to guide local governments in preparing their budget framework papers. In the financial year of 2011/2012, the WLDG received over 39,887,900,449 Shillings, of which 93% were central government transfers, whereas 7% were locally raised.
Generally, the PB process includes technical officers, political leaders, civil society leaders, and the individual ordinary citizen. Being governed under a democracy of multiple parties, each party has its elected delegates at all different levels of the government. The current parties of Uganda in 2012 were NRM, FDC, DP, JEEMA, and CP. As for WDLG, it has forty councilors belonging to four different parties. Executive and non-executive councilors participate in the process and are the chairpersons of its five sector committees. Also, civil service organizations (CSOs) and NGOs participate in budget conferences.
Regarding fees, 20% of locally raised funding is dedicated to the payment and allowances for political leaders, from which they share a proportion with the technical staff.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
In an interview, people stated that participants were selected based on partisan support for budget conferences. Moreover, they added the following: "Individuals and groups known to be critical of the technical officers and executives are not invited, and those who attend are never given a chance to contribute."
At a council level, the law imposes that one-third of local government council members should be females. Regarding people with disabilities, they have two representatives, one male and one female, both on the council.
At a village level, participation in the WDLG PB process comprehends all residents above 18 years old, regardless of being citizens or not. Otherwise, everyone is allowed to participate in the process.
Being a traditional authority, chiefs and kings mobilize their communities to participate in community development programs.
Concerning facilitation, the district could only afford to provide participants with lunch and refreshments. Unfortunately, resource constraints hinder poor citizens' participation since they couldn't have better facilitation services.
Methods and Tools Used
The method used was participatory budgeting.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
In 2011/2012, the PB process revolved around the allocation of public resources raised through taxation. The PB process in Uganda goes through six main stages: preparation, formulation, approval, implementation, monitoring and control, and evaluation.
First, the preparation phase involves developing a three-year District Development Plan that helps form the annual budget. Actors implicated in this phase are mainly the technical staff and the Head of the Districts' Planning Unit. The District Planning Unit has different departments. The head of each department is accountable for plans and budget development for his department. On the other hand, the whole unit is responsible for the District Development Plan development and preparation.
Second, the formulation phase marks the transition from planning to filtering programs and activities in the District Development Plan that are getting funding. Namely, this level initiates the process of allocating resources to relevant needs and priorities. Thus, ordinary citizens of the local government participate in this budgeting process through budget conferences. During such gatherings, the chairperson of the local government communicates what he has been able to achieve and what he intends to achieve.
Third, the approval phase concerns the approval of the local government budget. In Uganda, the administrative body responsible for approving the budget is the Council since it has the legal mandate to do so. WDLG laid its budget before the Council by June 11th, 2012, before the deadline (June 15th). Afterward, the budget passes to WDLG sector committees, which are five: Gender and Community Development; Works, Water, and Roads; Health and Education; Production, Marketing, and Natural Resources; and Finance and Planning. Then, the approval step takes place in the sector committee meetings. The committee members are required to attend, while it is not the case for councilors; it's optional. The chairpersons of the sector committees moderate the meetings until the approval stage, where the District Speaker takes up the task. The chairperson of each sector committee presents his committee's budget recommendation. Next, relative secretaries defend the committee's decision. If the decision is supported, it is approved.
Fourth, the implementation phase denotes plan execution. At this level, citizens suspend participation while the technical staff starts the budget implementation according to work plans. A responsibility that the technical staff assumes after the approval of the budget. Unfortunately, in the 2011/2012 PB process, several activities approved to receive funds from locally raised income ended up unfunded.
Fifth, the monitoring and control phase translates into supervising and checking up on the budget implementation by the technical officer. Following the legal and institutional framework, the members of the executive committee, who are political leaders, assume such responsibility. Another task assigned to other political leaders concerns monitoring the activities within the approved budget regarding their relative constituencies and sectors. However, non-executive political leaders' activity monitoring doesn't receive any prioritization.
As for citizens, they have to monitor the health and education sector via the management committee. Unfortunately, evidence showed that such committees are not functioning due to the lack of funding.
Sixth, the evaluation phase encloses the PB process by evaluating past performances. However, budget conferences focused on budgeting instead of evaluating previous experiences. Moreover, as previously mentioned, critical technical officers and executives are not invited to the process. Subsequently, they don't get a chance to contribute if they attend a budget conference.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The PB process in Wamala didn't reach its desired outcomes.
The development plan didn't capture citizens' concerns which were not budgeted in the approved budget.
Citizens state that participation is more treated as a ritual and has never been taken seriously by either the technical or political leader. In a report, the following objectives were highlighted and rated for 2011/2012 PB:
First, the harmonization of the annual planning and budget process was rated satisfactory. Second, the improvement of the funds' transfer system was rated satisfactory also. Third, setting up a strong framework for financial accountability was also rated Satisfactory. Fourth, the local participation especially of lower local governments was Moderated. Fifth, the use of the Output Budgeting Tool (OBT) for reporting was rated Moderate. Sixth, reducing the number and conditions for grants was also rated poor. Seventh providing more flexibility to local government during budgeting was too rated poor.
Regarding NGOs and CSOs, it was expected that their participation in budget conferences influences resource allocation toward marginalized and poor groups. Yet, evidence from Saturninus' study reveals that they participated with the intention of getting funding for their activities. Therefore, their participation didn't yield improved results.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Several factors contributed to shaping the 2011/2012 PB process in WDLG. In the following, we conduct our analysis using the democratic goods recommended by Smith, 2009 .
As previously mentioned, everyone above 18 was eligible to participate in the PB process, regardless of their gender and whether they were citizens or not. Moreover, CSOs and NGOs attended too. Thus we can deduce that the process was inclusive.
The main concern in this PB was that people who participated didn't have sufficient control over decisions. When allocating resources to needs and priorities, people's opinion is the first to be heard since they live in those areas and have better knowledge than someone who does not. Intuitively, budget decisions must be informed by inputs from participants. Unfortunately, the chairpersons' past and potential future achievements served as the input instead. Moreover, many activities with an approved budget ended up unfunded.
The PB process welcomed both the educated and the non-educated. However, there wasn't any special learning material or sessions to help citizens make thoughtful decisions. On top of that, some people interviewed in WDLG expressed that they don't feel being part of the government and that it only concerns people who are educated.
In the WDLG PB process, there were neither specific guidelines for participation nor penalties for non-participation. On top of that, there are no means to provide feedback with. As for budget conferences, participants have to spend at least five hours listening to each of the five sectors' fifteen departments' presentations.
The poorer citizens who should participate in the PB process usually don't because of the absence of sufficient facilitation. As previously mentioned, the district provides lunch and refreshments which are not enough for these people due to lack of funding. However, 20% of locally raised funding is dedicated to the payment and allowances for political leaders, from which they share a proportion with the technical staff.
Due to the pressure of supranational agencies, the WDLG and other districts have been implementing PB as a practice of a decentralized government.
The results of the Ugandan PB process emphasize the difference between donor-driven reforms and demand-driven ones . Namely, Porto Alegre was demand-driven, hence able to achieve a great social impact at its beginning. On the other side, Uganda and other developing countries were obliged to implement such reforms so as to receive funding. As a result, there was not sufficient motivation to implement such processes. This manifests specifically in political leaders and some technical officers who were eager to get resources for their personal benefit under the name of allowances and emoluments .
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- Participatory Budgeting – Participedia
- World Bank Group - International Development, Poverty, & Sustainability
- Danida (um.dk)