By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA, Uganda |SHIFTMEDIA| A legislator has lashed out at senior government officials for snubbing infrastructure events, calling them “Lazy fishermen”.
Hon Nathan Byanyima, the Member of Parliament for Bukanga North constituency in Isingiro district echoed the sentiments during the release of the CoST Uganda Chapter Dissemination of results from the 1st Infrastructure Transparency Index (ITI).
The dissemination of the ITI results that was launched in 2020 was supposed to be presided over by the Rt. Hon Prime Minister Robinah Nabanjja who was absent but represented. Similarly, the CoST Uganda Champion Minister for Works and Transport Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala was absent too, though he sent a representative, one of the Commissioners who read his speech.
“When I see the turn up I feel sad. There is a lot of laziness on the part of fishermen. We should at least have had a minister present,” said the outspoken MP and CoST Uganda Chairperson.
Byanyima told the paltry participants gathered at Kabira Country Club that unless ministers come out from the comfort of their offices and check how public funds are being utilized on ground Uganda shall not move any inch.
“Let’s stop this laziness, Ministry of Works has four State Ministers, at least one would be present
“We should not continue smoothly without considering aspects of transparency,” he said. He noted that before he ventured into politics, his insights from community interactions indicated that the population are interested in infrastructure matters.
Government officials defended
Gilbert Sendugwa, the Senior Regional Manager for Africa CoST International however defended the absence of the Prime Minister as Chief Guest saying she had actually invited them for an interface to discuss infrastructure issues.
‘The Prime Minister is not around but she has invited us along with officials from the Ministry of Works to engage her after this report launch. This is an indicator that she is with us in spirit” said Sendugwa.
Olive Kabatwairwe the Country Manager CoST who read the report on behalf of the research team noted that the level of disclosure of infrastructure information still remains critically low.
According to the findings, access to infrastructure-related information remains limited across the country. Only one out of every five entities is proactively disclosing infrastructure data.
“The emerging concern from the interviews is that citizens are not involved in the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects. This is emphasized by the low level of citizen participation. (13.8%),” said Olive.
She noted that despite the fact that openness is mandated by law and there are numerous examples of how increased openness benefits the public good, the level of information disclosure is alarmingly low.
“As a result, the government must demonstrate a stronger political commitment to greater transparency, which must manifest itself in bold actions rather than simple declarations,” she said.
Background to the ITI
In December 2020 CoST launched the Infrastructure Transparency Index, a flagship tool that provides unique actionable insight to government, private sector and civil society on the level of infrastructure transparency and processes to improve participation and accountability in national and sub-national contexts.
The tool generates a score for procuring entities of infrastructure projects as well as an overarching national score. Not only does this give stakeholders a solid understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a country’s sector, but it incentivizes the scored procuring entities to improve their performance year-on-year.
Though the new report presents the results of an evaluation of the transparency in the infrastructure sector to provide inputs for strengthening public institutions, it is not according to CoST, an instrument to evaluate corruption.
Who took part?
According to Olive Kabatwairwe, a total of thirty (30) pilot Procuring and Disclosing Entities (PDEs) were selected out of the proposed sixty (60) projects that were evaluated for this index.
Gen. Katumba speaks out
The Minister for Works and Transport Gen Edward Katumba Wamala said Uganda national ITI score in the year 2021 stands at 20.8%, representative of the 60 projects and 30 entities across the country, various sectors.
He observed that Uganda’s performance in the enabling environment dimension is at 41.4%, information disclosure at 18.4%, citizen participation at 13.8% and capacities and processes at 13.5%.
“Although given the performance from different dimensions, we will need concerted efforts to influence transparency in the sector deliberately, I am much more concerned that, Local Governments performance in the index was woefully bad, especially on disclosure, with nearly all the 15 scoring less than 15%.” He said a speech read by the Acting Commissioner Roads and Bridges.
“My Ministry provides stewardship to the CoST Uganda programme. In my capacity as the Champion, I congratulate the inaugural Infrastructure Transparency Index winners, including Kampala Capital City Authority 62%, Uganda National Roads Authority 58% and the Office of the Prime Minister 48%. As we celebrate your good performance, we challenge you to maintain this position in subsequent indices and call on other entities to take you over.” He said.
Best Performers Recognized
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) emerged the best overall with 62% followed by Ugandan National Roads Authority (UNRA) with 58% and Office of the Prime Minister scoring 48%.
Participants punch holes on findings
Though these findings were challenged by various stakeholders, National Social Security Fund (NSSF) that emerged best entity in integrity with 29.5% challenged the scores, saying it doesn’t represent what is on ground.
Paul Agaba the Head of Procurement Makerere University (Ranked 38) wondered what hallmark of tools were used by CoST Uganda.
“Consideration was not put regarding shortage of manpower experienced by Local Governments. You find one person who heads the department has to attend to surveys” said Ebili Patrick the Head of Procurement Lira District Local Government.
Agnes Tibayeita Isharaza the Corporation Secretary and Head of Legal at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) said: ‘Something is not right. There is a mismatch. We (NSSF) don’t take integrity issues lightly. We have won several awards because we disclose information.” “NSSF uses people’s funds so we are very transparent. Please always engage with us. We have won but winning with 29.5% isn’t our status,” she said.
Aisha Kitenda the Deputy Town Clerk Entebbe also discredited the findings saying it was not commensurate with what other findings have depicted of Entebbe. She said CoST must differiante between a Local Government and an Authority.
Dr. Byaruhanga Moses the Director Performance and Monitoring at PPDA also queried the CoST dissemination report.
- The government is encouraged, through the OPM and cabinet, to demonstrate a stronger political commitment to enhanced transparency, revealing itself in bold actions rather than simply pronouncements.
- Ministry of Finance is encouraged to strengthen disclosure of infrastructure projects, ensuring correct information is disclosed across recognized formal platforms, using a standard template, and updated from time to time.
- Ministry of Finance, through PPDA, is encouraged to strengthen public officials’ capacity to disclose and respond to stakeholder concerns on disclosure; public officials should be trained on what, how, and how often to disclose data on infrastructure projects and mechanisms for feedback sharing with stakeholders.