13 February 2013

Uganda: RDCs Must Not Abandon Cardinal Role

The Minister for the Presidency and Kampala Capital City Authority, Frank Tumwebaze, recently issued a circular to the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) clarifying their core Constitutional mandate as well as roles that come along with them. Below is his slightly edited message.

I have been prompted to issue this circular to help clarify on the various clashes that have resulted from either the RDCs over stepping their mandate or failing to take on their roles as stipulated by the Constitution, the Local Government Act 1997 or their Instruments of Appointment.

Article 203 of 1995 Constitution provides for the establishment of the office of the Resident District Commissioner and the roles provided for. They are:

a) To monitor implementation of Central and Local Government services in the District.

b) To act as Chairperson of the District Security Committee;

c) To carry out such other functions as may be assigned by the President or prescribed by Parliament by Law and

In addition Article 71 of the Local Government Act 1997 depicts the functions of the Resident District Commissioner as follows;

-Represent the President and the Government services in the district.

-Coordinate Government services in the district.

-Advise the district chairperson on matters of a national nature that may affect the district or its plans or programmes and particularly the relations between the district and the Government.

-Monitor and inspect the activities of local governments and, where necessary, advise the chairperson.

-Carry out such other functions as may be assigned by the President or prescribed by Parliament.

These functions are the guiding principles to the Office of RDC, DRDC in designing their work plans. For instance, in regard to monitoring Central and Local Government Projects, RDCs should interest themselves to know all government programmes running in their districts as well as the funds allocated to them.

RDCs should take lead in explaining government programmes and allocated funds to the people in various foras including use of the mass media now many in every district. By doing this, the RDCs will be carrying out civic empowerment of the citizenry and helping the public know the Government programmes and funds allocated to them so as to be able to demand for services offered by those programmes.

Creating awareness about how public resources are utilised and what programmes are being undertaken is not only a prerequisite for improving services delivery but a major tool of fighting corruption before it occurs.

Therefore, if all RDCs could concentrate on these major roles given to them by the Constitution, common cases of supplying air by contractors, shoddy works, theft of drugs in the hospitals, absenteeism of public servants, disappearance and diversion of NAADS, USE/UPE funds etc, would not be occurring. The RDC's office is the first anti-corruption office at district level.

Secondly, the National Security Council Act of 2000, under section 6 provides for establishment of District Security and Intelligence Committees chaired by the RDC.

As chairperson of the District Security Committee, RDCs generally liaise with other security actors to fight crime. At the Sub-county level, the LC3 chairperson chairs the security committee meetings and these should report their findings to the RDC at the Sub-county. So, RDCs have a structure across their districts that enable them handle security matters ably.

While the other organs like the military and police are better technically equipped and resourced to handle security matters at operational level, much more than the RDC, the reason why the RDC becomes the Chairperson of the Security Committee is for over all supervision, political coordination and mobilisation of the players involved. He or She provides leadership to the security actors.

This is a crucial role. Therefore, the RDC should take lead in mobilising communities on matters like community policing to prevent crime, mechanisms of accessing justice and on other peace and security issues. That is why in the past, the RDCs were in charge of Chakamuchaka courses, which were mainly a platform for civic empowerment.

Thirdly, the Constitution mandates the RDCs to take on any other role prescribed to them by the President or by law made by Parliament. The President has been writing guidelines to RDCs and other political leaders from time to time as well as giving directives on some key areas on which to mobilise the population on, for example, HIV/AIDS awareness, banana wilt disease, land fragmentation practices, illegal evictions, and enterprise selection, among many others.

These should be the main activities to pre-occupy the RDC on a day to day basis, in addition to the other roles mentioned above. RDCs should crusade the population to take heed of government guidance on such policy issues.

In 1987, for example, when scarcity of food was a threat, vigorous campaigns across the country calling for increased food production were carried out. The RDCs (SDAs then) took lead. Results later were very satisfying with production of both major food and cash crops shooting up. It is that campaign that sustained the culture of fighting hunger at the level of the house hold.

If the SDAs then who were ill - equipped with old vehicles and moreover covering big geographical areas in form of the old districts created an impact, why not you of today with slightly better mobility, capacity and covering small district (units)?

A district like the greater Mbarara for example, would start at the border with Tanzania and end at Kiburara Mpanga Bridge neighbouring Kabarole and the RDC then would cover all this stretch without fail. Now the same area has been split into four districts, which now means four RDCs and four Deputies. Other districts have also been split. Logically, outreach work now, as well as monitoring of all government programmes, should be much easier and therefore much more efficient.

I am also aware that because of corruption, in our justice system and in other bureaucratic levels of government, some wananchi mainly with land dispute problems and facing unfair evictions by the rich come to petition the RDCs office, which they rightly see as the local district branch of the Office of the President. How should such cases be handled?

My advice is while you should continue to receive and handle those petitions, your roles should not be to replace courts by issuing judicial orders. You should study the petitions received from people on a case by case basis and offer to mediate between the parties involved in the dispute, especially if the parties are all local residents. In case you discover unfair treatment or denial of justice to one of the parties in the dispute on account of his or her status of being poor by the justice system, then you should approach the responsible offices to officially complain about the injustices discovered.

Complaints against Judicial officers can be forwarded to the Judicial Service Commission and to the DPP in the case of state attorneys and prosecutors. If it is a case of bribery, the RDC is in a better position to quietly work with the Police to have the suspect arrested, or refer the matter to the IGG and inform my office through the regular monthly reports for follow up.

RDCs should also always acquaint themselves with the basic provisions of the laws that further guide and support their work in addition to the Constitution, as this will help you to take informed decisions. Relevant Laws that you need to pick interest in include; first and foremost the Constitution, the Local Government Act, the Public Finance and Accountability Act, PPDA Act, the Land Act (as amended), the Penal Code Act, Leadership Code, the Anti - Corruption etc. In case you have difficulties in accessing these Acts, please make your requisitions to the Secretary, Office of the President. They will be made available, to your offices.

Cases of RDCs quashing court orders and the undue interference in court decisions and processes, choosing to take a partisan interest in any of those land conflicts brought before them and taking sides with one of the parties at the expense of the other, involving and interfering in procurement matters at district level are illegal and not in any way close to roles expected of an RDC. Office of the Presidency as well as the President will not tolerate these.

Office of the Presidency will fully investigate complaints filed against any RDC/DRDC and whoever is found culpable will be dealt with in accordance with the set Public Service disciplinary procedures. However, any RDC/DRDC who will be found to have been falsely accused or maligned by the wrong doers as a result of his or her oversight (monitoring) work will be strongly supported by the office and commended.

I therefore, advise all RDCs to understand their Constitutional roles properly, do what is right and represent the President and Central Government effectively. Other leaders like LC V Chairpersons and Councilors on the other hand should also not interfere with RDC's in conduct of their work especially when monitoring government projects. CAOs should not stubbornly deny RDCs information regarding Government projects so as to frustrate their monitoring functions.

Other ministries that carry out programmes/projects of any nature in districts should always work with the RDCs so as to ensure that monitoring of that specific programme or project is done as demanded by the Constitution.

The Government departments and agencies should know that much as the RDCs are staff of the Office of the President, they are constitutionally empowered to work for and represent Central Government, ministries and agencies (MDAs) in general, in a district. So, all ministries and their agencies should work with RDCs as their first point of contact in a district, in addition to working directly with other relevant technical staff of the district. This is how collectively all MDAs will work and achieve results and avoid duplication sometimes.

Office of the Presidency will strongly support RDCs and DRDCs that remain focused on your mandates. RDCs should also not fear complaints being reported against them in my office or to the President. If RDCs are doing right at the annoyance of those offending the Government and doing shoddy public works, then they will be applauded and supported. But at the same time, we shall act strict on those of you who involve yourselves in activities outside their mandate.

RDCs are always expected to be at their stations all the time and those who wish to leave their stations should do so only after seeking clearance from the Secretary, Office of the President. Annual leave periods should be observed and respected. Remember RDCs Resident and Not Visiting or Part-time District commissioners.

Every RDC is expected to a file monthly report to the Office of the President without fail. The Office will continue to receive the reports, verify them, take the necessary action and update on the actions taken in a timely manner. The reports should highlight the issues affecting the population, security status, corruption cases as well as performance of the government programmes and projects in their respective districts.

The office of the Presidency plans to hold a retreat at Kyankwazi (NALI) for all RDCs to discuss at length some of the highlighted issues so that we can jointly agree on a uniform method of work and parameters for appraisal.

I would like to thank you for the good work you are doing amidst the challenges you face. I wish you a Happy New Year.

Frank Tumwebaze (MP)


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