The Observer (Kampala)

13 April 2014

Uganda: RDCs Are Political Employees

The minister for the Presidency and KCCA, Frank Tumwebaze, recently opened a retreat for RDCS and deputy RDCs at the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi.

Below is a slightly abridged version of his keynote address.

In 1985 when NRA had liberated much of central and western Uganda, the NRC and NRA High Command decided to form an Interim Administration based in Fort Portal.

The Interim Administration had the NRC as the supreme political organ, the Chief Administrator as leader of Government and Commissioners as departmental (ministries) heads or ministers at that. The NRC had a secretariat headed by the NPC and with an Administrative Secretary.

The role of the Secretariat was to service the Interim Administration, create cadreship, plant seeds of democracy by establishing Resistance Committees and Councils and to mobilize the population to support the struggle.

At district level, a special district administrator (SDA) was appointed for each of the districts within the liberated zones. The SDAs were directly under the Secretariat and therefore, played the role of the Secretariat at district level. They were supposed to be the agents of change at district level and, therefore, special in that respect.

Indeed they became real agents of change in various aspects of social-political and economic development. They had an ideological mission to pursue as change agents. They were pro-people and worked with the people. All those appointed were either NRA cadres or civilian cadres trained by the NRA during the bush war.

After the capture of state power, some people within government were not happy with the title SDA and therefore the prefix "Special" was removed and the officers were now to be referred to as district administrators (DAs).

The same thinking within government continued that since there were the traditional civil servants to carry out the day-to-day administrative roles, the DAs should only represent the president and Central Government in the district but still carry out the critical oversight role in the district on behalf of the centre.

You can still see that the idea of RDCs being change agents was not lost. When you are an overseer, monitor, inspector or supervisor, you are a result seeker and therefore a change agent. You can't achieve results without causing change of various processes including the mindset.

The title was, therefore, subsequently changed to central government representative (CGR) and the officers transferred from the NRM Secretariat to the Office of the President. During the making of the 1995 Constitution, it was proposed that CGRs should become "Senior Civil Servants" and be referred to as resident district commissioners (RDCs).

The reality, however, is that RDCs though classified as senior civil servants, remained political leaders with a major political mandate of carrying out oversight on behalf of the central government at district level. This created some bits of contradiction or ambiguity in interpretation.

You would hear questions like; how does a civil servant represent the president, chair security meetings, mobilize people or even oversee politically- elected leaders at the district? So, we all need to be properly guided on all these.

Much as there was need by the constitutional makers to clarify more on what they meant or wanted to cure by classifying RDCs as senior civil servants, a description that seemed to somehow be at variance with the stated roles, the roles themselves were made explicitly clear in Article 203 and in other enabling pieces of legislation like the Local Government and the National Security acts.

There is therefore no ambiguity in as far as understanding your roles is concerned. The mandate provided for in all these enactments including the Constitution, still recognize the institution of the RDC. So, let your work plans be guided by those stated roles, which I had also restated in a circular to you.

Ideological clarity

The ideological clarity required of you in execution of your roles is none other than understanding and comprehension of the core values/beliefs of the government you represent. These are: Nationalism, Anti-sectarianism, Pan-Africanism and Social Economic transformation as an enabler of political independence.

The above core beliefs are the ones that define the NRM ideology; the government you serve. The policies and programmes that we run as government and which we sold to the population in form of a manifesto are all informed and founded on the basis of the above ideological beliefs/principles.

If you audit any one policy of government for compliance to the above pillars, it should pass. If not, then it should be amended. As an RDC or deputy RDC, therefore, you should be at the forefront of understanding these principles and using them as your daily work guide. As you advocate for and monitor all those central and local government programmes, you may need to ask yourselves frequently, questions like:

Are these projects being funded and implemented by MDAs economically transforming the citizenry?

Are the people of your district aware that for example bigger-rewarding markets for their farm produce lie beyond their district boundaries/ country borders and therefore sectarianism, be it tribal or religious won't at all liberate them socially and economically?

Every RDC and D/RDC should have this ideological clarity. For instance, to be successful in any private organization, every staff whether superior or subordinate must appreciate fully its core values i.e. objectives, mission and vision. He/she should also be able to own up and sell those values to the intended audience. Why should this be different for government?

Do not, therefore be misled by those who want to misread your mandate by claiming that engaging in ideological issues as an RDC or D/RDC (who is classified as a civil servant) is being and going partisan and therefore breaking the law, now that we are in a multiparty dispensation.

You are not serving a political party per se, but instead serving a government with an ideological- stand and which was elected. That ideological stand was articulated in its manifesto and was bought by the citizenry through a popular vote.

It is that manifesto that gets financed every year by Parliament and so it is the mother of all other policies and programmes of government being implemented which you are mandated to oversee in your respective districts.

By championing this manifesto, therefore, and engaging the population to heed to the various policies of government as per its ideology as well as propagating the achievements, you are not in any way being partisan. Going partisan means engaging in promotional activities of any one political party or individual political leader with complete disregard for others' opinions. I urge you to get this distinction clearly.

What is expected of you?

It's important to briefly re-emphasize to you what your appointing authority and us as your supervisors expect of you. The following general and specific activities form part of your work:

You are resident district commissioners (RDCs) and not non-resident [RDCs]. Visiting RDCs will not be tolerated at all.

Monitoring of all projects or activities being implemented in your respective districts whether government or donor-funded. Wherever possible, physically verify what is being done. Advocate for what is right and go against what is wrong.

Chairing security meetings and coordinating all the other security actors in the district. Sensitize the population on security matters and advocate for approaches like community policing in liaison with the other actors.

Mobilizing the population to play their roles as citizens. Delivery of government services alone without the citizenry playing their roles of production and income generation at house hold won't bring the social-economic transformation desired.

Attending to all other administrative work that come along with those general functions of the office with swiftness and sensitivity to client needs (Signing passport application forms, listening to petitions from the population, coordinating crime and security intelligence with technical actors like DISO and police, etc.)

Teamwork especially in districts where there is an RDC and D/RDC. Infighting amongst RDCs and their deputies has been common in the past and that is a clear sign of ideological immaturity.

Filing periodic reports to the central government among others (monthly reports). This is a mandatory requirement which most districts have not adhered to.

Officiating at every project launch and closure/handover in your district whether government or donor-funded (Read the president's directive on this).

In all the above, always allow knowledge and logic to guide your decisions. For example, how and when should you monitor government programmes and what should you look out for in that monitoring? The same questions should also apply to the other bit of your security roles.

Monitoring programmes

Always ask; How, what, when and why? These must be defined and well-understood to ensure completeness. The key word, monitoring, must be understood to you the monitor. In simple terms and in relation to your roles, monitoring means; checking out to see that what is supposed to be done, is being or has been done according to the set/required standard.

The standard may be qualitative or quantitative and in most times both. While in other situations, monitoring has been regarded as an end activity or post-mortem, in your case it's different, because you are resident.

You should, therefore, be able to detect and curtail corruption before it happens.

However, before you embark on monitoring, ask yourself the following basic questions:

What?

You should clearly define your intention for monitoring and the desired outcomes. Clear areas of interest should be stated. As per the above definition, note that you need to know what you are going to monitor i.e. you cannot monitor what you don't know.

How?

Define clearly the approach or method you intend to apply. The following scenarios may come in mind;

Desk monitoring Vs Physical inspection/field outreach

Team (Technical and political) Vs Individual or Single office

Overt Vs Covert

Knowing clearly 'what' helps you in deciding 'how'.

When?

Schedule your monitoring activities well in your work plans. You should also be knowledgeable about the time frame of the specific activities you intend to monitor.

Why?

You should be able to formulate clear objectives of your monitoring which should solve an identified problem(s)/gaps in service delivery. The above questions will help in attaining completeness in your activities not only in monitoring but even in report compilation. You are the agents and the inspectors of government. If you slumber, no targets will be achieved.

Any RDC or Deputy who acts resolutely in the conduct of his or her lawful duty will be strongly supported and nobody should ever intimidate you. The reverse however, will be true if you are on the wrong side.

Please be willing to change and don't settle for less achievement but, rather, for more and more. As much as possible always treasure learning and enriching yourselves with more knowledge about your districts and their neighbours, Uganda, East Africa and the world.

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