The accountability committees of the Parliament of Uganda are strong committees that have made important contributions in holding government accountable on a number of high profile cases, including financial mismanagement of CHOGM and OPM. The committees have also highlighted important concerns of financial mismanagement unearthed by the Auditor General’s reports. The work of the committees has been instrumental in fighting corruption, through drawing public attention to the costs of corruption for the nation. Committees have also extensively documented the common patterns of financial mismanagement and misuse of state resources, and made recommendations for preventing such losses in the future.
The accountability committees have also demonstrated a high level of commitment to pursuing accountability issues, and frequently sit for extended sessions to consider a considerable workload that includes not only annual reports from the AG on central and local governments and well as other government bodies, but also a number of special investigation and special audit reports, and Value for Money Audit reports. The Members of the committees have invested considerable time and energy in the work of the committees despite a considerable range of other duties and responsibilities in other committees, the plenary, and their constituencies.
Despite their high level of activity, generous support from Parliament and donors, and experienced and committed Parliamentarians on the committees, however, the accountability committees continue to face challenges in considering reports, getting their reports tabled and adopted, and receiving a response from Government in a timely fashion. The lack of completion of the cycle of accountability work means that their high level of activity does not bear the fruit it should in terms of tasking government to account fully for its management of public expenditure. The research for this report has illustrated some of the reasons why, including the following:
1) a considerable backlog of work, due to a high workload, existence of numerous reports dating from many years ago, and logistical challenges especially on the side of LGAC;
2) the slow consideration of AG’s reports in committees, due to the absence of rules, policies and procedures for guiding the work of committees, frequent politicization of hearings, lack of focus and prioritization of queries for consideration, suboptimal use of technical staff to support committee work and report writing, and practices not to divide the committee into sub-committees;
3) challenges in getting the reports tabled, adopted and debated by the plenary, due to a low priority assigned to accountability committee reports, limited mechanisms for assuring their speedy consideration, lack of fixed dates for conclusion of consideration of annual AG’s reports, and a crowded plenary schedule.
To deal with the challenges discussed above, a number of policy options are available. Through the exploration of the available policy options and implementation of the most relevant, Parliament can dramatically increase the efficiency with which it considers Auditor General’s reports and the impact of its review of those reports upon management of public expenditure. Efficient and effective consideration of AG’s reports, and follow up on the recommendations made by accountability committees, will place Parliament in the limelight as a champion of the fight against corruption and a guardian of public resources in Uganda. Institutional change is seldom easy but deployment of some of the tools discussed here can make an important difference in Parliament’s campaign against corruption and the mismanagement of public expenditure.
It is our hope that this report can make a modest contribution to the valuable work carried out by Parliament and its accountability committees. We recognize the important contribution of Parliament in promoting accountability of Government. Finally, we wish to thank Parliament for its cooperation in the development of this report, and the GAPP program for its support for and commitment to the study.