The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Can Govt Assess Its Own Performance?

For three years now, the office of the Prime Minister has been assessing the ability of government departments to deliver services as planned.

But with the OPM now gripped by scandal over management of public finances, questions abound about the efficacy of this government performance assessment. Will it work? Can the government objectively evaluate its own performance? How does government use its findings to enhance service delivery? Michael Mubangizi tried to find answers to these questions.

In 2003, the government resolved to develop a system of assessing its performance. This, however, only came to fruition in 2010, when OPM released the first annual performance report. In January 2012, government released the second performance audit report. This particular report indicates that 60% of the annual targets in the National Development Plan (NDP) that was launched in April 2010 had been met.

It also found that government was making progress on its NRM manifesto promises by 59%. The NRM was off-track on 13% of its promises while there was no data to access it on 28% of its targets. Some of the issues it was off-track include increase in economic growth to more than 10% per annum, maintaining macroeconomic stability by keeping inflation at single digit, construction of the four-lane Kampala- Entebbe Express highway, construction of three new hospitals in Kampala and increasing access to safe clean water in rural areas from the current 65% to 100% in 2016.

Others were boundary demarcation and gazetting of critical wetlands, computerisation of the land registry and decentralization of management of land records. Those aspects, for which there was no data to provide assessment, include efforts in upholding the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs), establishment of secondary schools in sub-counties and primary schools in parishes which have none as well as the establishment of voluntary patriotism clubs in schools.

Others were elimination of gender-based violence, development of industrial and business parks, establishment of youth enterprise capital fund, reduction of procedures required to start and operate businesses, support to micro, small and medium enterprises. The report also notes that "public investments in some areas are aligned [with NDP goals] while others are not. Less than planned [funds] are invested in transport, health and energy while more is going into security, justice and public administration areas."

The report also says that while Uganda has a NDP, it not being consciously implemented.

"The macro-economic and financing strategies of the NDP are divergent from the economic realities in Uganda and government's own expenditure plan."

"The level of detail that it outlines already makes aspects of it redundant as the fast pace of economic and material change overtakes the projections made in 2009/10." The report proposes that the plan be formally annualized through the budget planning process. It also notes that 43% of data needed to assess key indicators in the NDP is unavailable.

How ministries performed:

The report also shows that the Works, Water and Environment sectors achieved 60% of their actions, the Health sector achieved 30% while the Education sector did not provide any information to provide basis for assessing its performance. Energy generation, the report says, rose from 559 megawatts (MW) in 2009/10 to 628 MW in 2010/11.This 68MW increase, however, fell below the target increase of 93MW.

The report also notes that the Justice, Law and Order sector is well funded. While ministries like that of Internal Affairs received only 68% of approved budget, the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs received 231%. Case disposals and average stay on remand improved while crime incidences also reduced.

Parliament:

The report indicates that 60% of the money given to Parliament goes into payment of salaries. The remaining 40% that year covered for production of outputs and the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly. Of Shs 162 billion allocated to parliament that year, 99% was released to it.

On successes in Parliament, the report cites improved committee attendance from 95% in 2009/2010 to 100%, plenary attendance also moved from 70% to 100%. The Public Accounts Committee, the report says, registered an impressive performance. The report notes that elections had negative effect as MPs spent more time in constituencies looking for votes than on their parliamentary work.

The report also notes that some government agencies and ministries got more money than was allocated to them while others got less than what was approved to them.

Those that got more than was allocated to them include State house (269%), Electoral commission (169%) and Security. Those that got less than what was approved to them include ministry of Foreign Affairs and ministry of Local government and of Lands.

Delivering?

So, how and why did the idea of assessing government performance start?

Pius Bigirimana, the Permanent Secretary Office of the Prime Minister, says it was started to give an institutional framework to appraise government progress in the execution of its mandate.

"We assess the performance of government ministries and how they use the resources given to them."

This exercise is spearheaded by the OPM.

"All ministries have their own assessment but we take a helicopter view. We do it at a macro level by looking at all ministries."

Bigirimana says they first agree on performance indicators that provide the basis of assessing ministries and government agencies. These are derived from government ministerial policy statements and Budget Framework papers, which indicate planned activities that the departments plan to undertake. A meeting is held to evaluate the performance of ministries and government agencies every six months.

The permanent secretary says such meetings are attended by ministers, permanent secretaries, district chairpersons, RDCs and CAOs. During such forums hindrances to the realization of targets in individual ministries and agencies' challenges are discussed and remedies found. Perennial problems, Bigirimana says, include the lack of data and personnel and funds to implement government programmes.

However, Bigirimana says the exercise has improved accountability, transparency and proper planning, monitoring and evaluation amongst government ministries and agencies in the execution of their work.

"People have woken up and now plan and show outputs. They have identified gaps and addressed them through recruitment, performance indicators, time frames and costs to be used," he says.

Not everyone agrees with Bigirimana, though. Martin Lwanga, a management consultant, says the current developments at the Prime Minister's office involving the huge theft of government monies meant for development activities deprives it of the moral authority to assess the performance of other ministries.

"It's a huge indictment on them; if they can't efficiently run themselves, how can they monitor other ministries?" he told The Observer by telephone.

He says any government devoid of the will to deliver services to its people can't be trusted to evaluate itself.

"The issue of assessing government performance is a bigger problem. It cannot be solved by simplistic answers," he says, adding that Uganda needs to borrow from the best practices of other countries.

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