The 2020/​2021 Bud­get Frame­work Pa­per: How cru­cial are the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments? Time for a new deal in De­vo­lu­tion.

By: PROS­PER MUBAN­GIZI

In­tro­duc­tion.

The 2nd Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan so much em­pha­sized de­cen­tral­iza­tion and the achieve­ment of the de­cen­tral­iza­tion pol­icy in a bid to pave way for de­vo­lu­tion of gov­ern­ment func­tions and pro­gram im­ple­men­ta­tion in such a way that it set out in­ter alia to “strengthen de­cen­tral­iza­tion and im­prove over­all gov­ern­ment ef­fec­tive­ness in the ex­e­cu­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of gov­ern­ment pro­grams”[1]. It should be ap­pre­ci­ated that Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments are the front line ser­vice de­liv­ery points. They de­rive this man­date from the pro­vi­sions of the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment (Amend­ment) Act, 2015 CAP 243 bye-laws of the de­cen­tral­iza­tion pol­icy. Gov­ern­men­t’s fo­cus on So­cio-Eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and wealth cre­ation at the house­hold level clearly es­tab­lishes the lo­cal gov­ern­ments as a ma­jor chan­nel for de­vel­op­ment ex­pen­di­ture. A look at Hon. Amama Mbabaz­i’s pro­posed sub county model of de­vel­op­ment in his 2016 Go For­ward Man­i­festo fur­ther but­tresses the sacro­sanct role of lo­cal gov­ern­ments and de­cen­tral­iza­tion in the na­tional de­vel­op­ment agenda.

Bud­get Al­lo­ca­tions in Fi­nan­cial Year 2020/​21.

Though only 1.06 tril­lion shillings is al­lo­cated to the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Sec­tor, the en­tire de­cen­tral­iza­tion process is ex­pected to be al­lo­cated a to­tal of 3.5 tril­lion shillings as per the Bud­get Frame­work Pa­per 2020/​21 which has been de­bated and passed by the 10th Par­lia­ment in ac­cor­dance with the 2015 Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment pro­vi­sion. The wor­ry­ing bit about the al­lo­ca­tions to lo­cal gov­ern­ments is that most of their bud­gets is meant for re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture in wage pay­ment not ac­tu­ally ser­vice de­liv­ery. This is ex­em­pli­fied by the fact that 2.883 tril­lion of the 3.5 tril­lion is meant to cover the re­cur­rent bud­get while only 688 bil­lion is the de­vel­op­ment bud­get. This means that lo­cal gov­ern­ments are not pri­or­i­tized as ser­vice de­liv­ery points as in­di­cated in the 2nd Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan which refers to them as fo­cal points of ser­vice de­liv­ery.  Rather they are an added bur­den onto the gov­ern­ment as far as ad­min­is­tra­tive costs are con­cerned. This is de­spite the fact that lo­cal gov­ern­ments are still un­der­staffed at 56% for dis­tricts and 57 per­cent for the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils; some­thing that has con­strained ser­vice de­liv­ery.

With such a fund­ing dilemma where the re­cur­rent bud­get is 4.5 times the de­vel­op­ment bud­get, it is per­haps per­ti­nent that a re­view of the de­cen­tral­iza­tion pol­icy is un­der­taken as sug­gested by the 2nd Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan to de­ter­mine the ex­act place and role of lo­cal gov­ern­ments in ser­vice pro­vi­sion and the en­tire gov­er­nance su­per struc­ture. The re­view should have de­liv­er­able that in­ter alia fo­cus on im­prov­ing func­tion­al­ity of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments for ef­fec­tive ser­vice de­liv­ery; pro­mot­ing Lo­cal Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment; im­prov­ing gov­er­nance at LG level; pro­mot­ing com­pre­hen­sive phys­i­cal plan­ning and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment; im­prov­ing com­mu­nity mo­bi­liza­tion for de­vel­op­ment; and pro­mot­ing pro­vi­sion of some key in­fra­struc­ture ser­vices at re­gional level.

Time for a New Deal ?.

The ul­ti­mate end prod­uct of such a re­view should point to de­vo­lu­tion or more ad­vanced forms of de­cen­tral­iza­tion such as the re­gional tier sys­tem or even a fed­eral sys­tem of gov­ern­ment where the en­ti­ties are given more au­ton­omy to over­see de­vel­op­ment in their ar­eas of ju­ris­dic­tion with min­i­mal in­ter­fer­ence by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. From the de­sign of the bud­get al­lo­ca­tions, lo­cal gov­ern­ments are tuned to be to­tally de­pen­dent on the cen­tral gov­ern­ment which has led to the fail­ure of the De­cen­tral­iza­tion pol­icy. Hence, there is need to go be­yond de­cen­tral­iza­tion to ac­tual de­vo­lu­tion of pow­ers if the com­mon man and woman is to ben­e­fit from the na­tional bud­gets and other gov­ern­ment pro­grams.

[1] Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan 11.