The major purpose of public projects and contracts is to improve the lives and livelihoods of the citizens in the country. However, most of the public contracts in Uganda don’t fully achieve their goal due to political interference from leaders who have become the main beneficiaries instead of the citizens.

Speaking during a stakeholder workshop on enhancing value for money in public contracts and services in Ntungamo, Singahakye Denis, LC5 Ntungamo district noted that political Interference from leaders greatly affects the prosperity of the projects.

 

“We have a lot of shoddy work done because some of our political leaders despite having less knowledge and no technical capacity to monitor projects involve themselves in bidding and contracting processes for their hidden intentions.  District technical teams are often times left out,” he said.

Singahakye adds that most leaders are ignorant about monitoring and open contracting, their major interest is how to benefit from the projects rather than welfare of the citizens.

“Most of these leaders target brown envelops from contractors and in the end cannot raise a finger to point out mistakes or criticisms”

Assumpta   Kebirungi, a member from civil society points out lack of collaboration between government and non-governmental organizations as a challenge in contract performance.

”The aim of social economic transformation can be achieved if government partners with civil society to help in doing checks and balances to enhance transparence and accountability,” She said.

The chairman noted that much as other there a number of challenges in contract performance in the district, access to information should be granted right from the time call for bids are sent out till the end of the project.

“Access to information should be exercised for citizens to fully intervene since implementation is done at the grass root level,” Singahakye added.

 Majority of the participants noted illiteracy, corruption, lack of involvement, lack of transparency and accountability as major challenges in success of contracts in their district.

During the stakeholder workshop on access to information and open contracting in Nebbi district, participants noted that public officials do not release information requested from them.

 However, in shield one of the public officials, Patrick Wamala, senior education officer Nebbi, noted that the nature of contracts they signed do not permit them to reveal the information.

“We have the information that is requested for most times. However, we cannot freely dish it out because of the oath of secrecy that we signed,” he said.

According to the code of conduct of public officials, under the secrecy and confidentiality section, 4.8.1 it states that:  “A Public Officer is a custodian of official information that comes into his or her possession in the course of his or her duty in the Public Service. The release of such information must be guided by the laws relating to rights of access to information as prescribed in the Official Secrets Act and other relevant laws that may be enacted from time to time” 

Odia Geofrey, the District Communications  officer  notes that the procedure of accessing public information deserves to be followed or else information requested for will not be granted. He further explains that any citizen requesting for information needs to write to the Chief Administrative officer (CAO) first. Having done that, the requester will be advised on the next steps.

“For any public officer to give out information, standard procedure must be followed.  If not the officer has to ensure that his comment doesn’t get on record. Otherwise, he or she will be politically inclined,” he said.

However, participants also noted that the government’s reaction towards the senior nursing officials of Abim hospital, Santina Adong and Pasca Akello who welcomed Besigye, the FDC presidential candidate in the recently concluded elections to the 200-bed hospital and gave him information about the sorry state of the hospital is another threat to sharing information. They dread that such situations can make them lose their jobs.

Benedicto Okwengtho, a journalist with The New Vision, noted that  such fears among public officials make communication about contracts awarded to bidders are not difficult.

 Concluding the workshop, Jimmy Odur, AFIC’s monitoring and evaluation officer encouraged citizens to file information requests so that they can ably participate in the democratic processes of the country and also be able to hold their leaders accountable.

The Uganda Roads Authority has welcomed Partnership with Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition (UCMC) in the area of promoting value for money, access to information and citizen participation in public contracts. This communication was contained in a letter dated March 3, 2014 signed by Engineer Ssebbugga Kimeze, UNRA’s Executive Director.  While communicating this decision, Mr. Kimeze welcomed the intention of UCMC to pilot test the community roads monitoring tool and allocated roads where the exercise could take place. UNRA also indicated that it was reviewing a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) proposed by UCMC to formalise a structured relationship to govern rules of engagement, communication and stakeholder engagements.

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