26 December 2012

Uganda: HIV/Aids NGO Officials to Declare Wealth

Photo: Emily Dugan/Merlin
Merlin community workers with sex workers on the Ugandan border, South Sudan.

Officials of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) doing HIV/AIDS work will be compelled to declare their income and wealth before taking office. This is meant to curb swindling of funds.

The NGOs turned the fire on themselves amidst accusations of fights and outright attempts to undermine each other over donor funds which they said is undermining their effectiveness.

Meeting at the Hotel Africana in Kampala, the NGOs or Civil Society Organisations (CSO) said that they will create an ombudsman just like the Inspectorate of Government where wealth will be declared and ensure accountability. The Ombudsman would also bring errant NGOs to book in case anything sinister is detected and if any NGO defies the arrangement, UNASO would instigate its deregistration.

During the CSO meeting which they called the National dialogue on leadership, governance and accountability in the HIV/AIDS response, the Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations (UNASO) presented its study report rapping the CSOs. It said that there was a lot of misunderstanding of what accountability and governance meant and that accountability mechanisms are lacking with most of the CSOs.

The report presented by UNASO Executive Director, Namanya Bharam, also pointed out that some of the donors come with preconceived projects instead of consulting the beneficiaries and the CSOs have not done much to point that anomaly out.

There is lack of transparency both with the CSOs, the government and the donors and as a result, work is duplicated and some NGOs have strayed from their initial mandate to spread to other areas just because they want to tap funds. As a result, the report pointed out; there is limited community ownership of the response.

"CSOs have exhibited a lot of things as they compete with each other; unfair play, outright malicious wrong accusations and others, which is creating confusion and undermining interventions as HIV infections quietly raise," Namanya said.

Dr. Lydia Mungherera, a UNASO Board member said that there is lack of a multi - sectoral approach, lack of gender visibility and a lot of things are talked about but remain on paper. "We are not accountable to our beneficiaries on the ground. We do not document issues. As CSOs we have a lack of shame. We should be ashamed of what we do... we need to get accountable," she said.

Other members said that public participation in these interventions is not encouraged yet this is critical. They said that CSOs should realise that they cannot be a jerk of all trades and should restrict themselves to their initial mandate so as to work in complementarity with other CSOs and other players.

The members also complained that some of the donors are not open and much of the funds that they give are taken back in terms of pay packages for the expatriates they bring in. They said that some of these CSOs cannot even raise this issue because the donors in question would withdraw their funding.

"We need to also interrogate issues with the development partners. Some of them give funds in November and demand accountability in December the same year. How much would one have done and when do they account to beat that deadline.

They also complained that in some cases there is political interference, though they did not elaborate. At the end of the meeting, the CSOs decided that all of them must be compelled to make yearly accountabilities with clearly audited books but also with works to show for it.

They also said that government should present streamlined strategic frameworks with clearly identified gaps for the donors to come in so that donor interventions could achieve its desired results.

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