opinionBy Sam Agona
It is in the interest of Uganda that we achieve a self-financing budget.
The recently read budget indicated that local funds would contribute 75% of it. Some people are asking whether it is possible for Uganda to achieve self-financing of her budget with the imminent oil production. My answer is "Yes", on condition that we improve on our financial management discipline.
We need to develop a streamlined system based on proper planning, management and all-stage monitoring and evaluation (M&E). This would help realise value in public investments which stimulates other parts of the economy, including the private and informal sectors.
African countries spend a lot of resources and time fighting corruption. In Uganda, this has been evident in the misappropriated Chogm and, Global Fund and Gavi money. If there was proper M&E in such projects run by the government and related institutions, some of these mishaps would have been detected early along the way.
In Uganda, a standard highway should measure eight metres wide, two for plant provision in the middle (dual carriageway), one metre for the drainage on both sides of the road and two for pathways (for pedestrians) on both sides, totalling to a road of 15 metres in size.
Plans ordinarily include these dimensions, but somewhere along the way, the output does not match the plan. Most of our major roads are about six metres wide. The question is: why are projects not up to standard? My view is that it is because of the lack of activity tracking and general monitoring of projects by the respective stakeholders. The end result is poor quality infrastructure, like roads that are too narrow and prone to destruction by heavy vehicles.
There are several organisations doing community work such as sinking pit latrines and boreholes for rural communities, among others, but the aspect of proper M&E at all project phases is not fully implemented. After closure of a water drilling project, it is not uncommon to find water pipes abandoned at the site several months later or electric poles abandoned by the roadside after installation is complete.
This shows how resources are poorly utilised. For us to attain self-sustainability, we should use resources to the optimum and be able to account for them. This can only be done through rigorous M&E in the economy. It gets worse with government projects. As monetary injections are made, there's need for maximum monitoring of all stages in project execution so as to get value for money.
An audit is a function of monitoring and evaluation which is supposed to happen at every stage of the project life to ensure that resources go where they are supposed to, right decisions are made, the project is taking the right direction, and if not, corrective action is taken. However, this is hardly ever done, and because of this, resources are wasted. If we continue this way, we shall find it so hard to become self-sustaining and improve on individual life standards.
Some NGOs, however, have established standards for M&E for their projects. CARE-Uganda, for example, has a well established M&E system, created through their Design Monitoring and Evaluation Unit. NAADS has also done a great job in M&E, training a lot of its staff around the country to monitor its projects, thus properly executing activities towards its goals.
There is need to bolster audit operations to avoid leading into unnecessary bureaucracies and promote accountability. Allowance must be made for community policing of projects. Proper M&E will allow for social accountability both at civic and formal levels. Ugandans and Africans generally, need to be socially responsible for activities in their vicinity. Through the populace as the beneficiaries of government and NGO projects, Participatory Monitoring can be achieved.
Institutions should carry out capacity building so as to be able to properly plan for and accord projects the right value. This will strengthen skills in information systems for project staff as well as provide a useful technical resource for planning project monitoring and evaluation systems.
Through proper M&E practices, we learn lessons from our undertakings, thus carrying out the desired corrective actions and avoiding huge losses towards the end of a project. It is such practices that will allow Uganda and other countries achieve self-sustainability.
The author is an expert in monitoring and evaluation.