It takes longer for government to recruit contractors, majority of projects are not completed on time and within cost while the quality of projects is most of the time poor. Public contracting related corruption perpetuated by the political class and technocrats is reported in most contracts and services.

Hence, there is frequent discovery of ghost projects, ghost contracts, ghost workers, ghost pensioners, ghost beneficiaries, all of whom drain state coffers and constrain government’s ability to pursue NDP goals.  And as it was to be expected, this has led many citizens and experts to contradict the President on Uganda’s ability to attain MIS by 2017.

In 2011, the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) identified huge implementation gap and corruption as main obstacles to Uganda’s development. The New Vision newspaper of June 29, 2013 quoted IGG as saying 99.3% of contracts overshoot their budgets while only 29% of public contracts are completed on time . Persistent and generalized corruption at the political and technical level is a real challenge to Uganda’s development. For example, the former vice President, Gilbert Bukenya alongside other senior officials were named in procurement related malpractice ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) .During the procuring of a contractor for Karuma Hydropower station, one of NDP projects, the President was quoted as having said that a minister had received a bribe of 2 million dollars to influence the process. Allegations of bribe and influence peddling significantly prolonged procurement by over 2 years.

What should be done?

Ugandan Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi believes that  by reducing procurement related losses by 2%, the country would be able to increase salaries of all teachers in public schools by 15% . Mr. Mbabazi’s view is forthright.  Open contracting- increasing disclosure of contract information and allowing ordinary people monitor contracts and services will enhance performance and increase value for money in contracts and services. A review by Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) a list of schools to be supplied with science kits published by Ministry of Education and Sports revealed inflated enrollment and ghost science kits . On the basis of findings of this review responsible authorities were contacted and the problem was rectified.

There is growing evidence that by secrecy increases opportunities for corruption and poor service delivery while openness enhances delivery of services. In Bushenyi, residents could not access records relating a contract to construction of a ghost stadium for which Government paid 1 billion shilling . AFIC is working at a Civil Society level introducing citizen access to information and monitoring of public contracts and services to local organizations. These workshops have raised some illuminating outputs and opinions. Participants at an access to information and open contracting workshop for civil society actors in Hoima district on November 9, 2013 cited opaqueness on projects like construction of Hoima market, expansion of Hoima hospital, construction of Hoima-Kaiso Road, Hoima Lagoon and compensation of people faceted by the oil refinery as some of the opaque projects. One of the participants noted, “we see materials being stolen at night but we do not have information on where and how to report”.

It has been proved that increasing disclosure and citizen participation improves service delivery. Following training conducted by Africa Freedom of Information Centre, an information request on the number of doses of malaria medicine delivered at Mpugwe Health Centre, Masaka district resolved a long standing problem of chronic lack of medicines at the health centre. In Iganga district, an information request for contract documents relating to construction of VIP latrines at a primary school that had stalled for over 2 years prompted the contractor to resume work within four days following an information request.

Realisation of NDP goals will create jobs for young people and improve the standard of living for everyone. Its failure will be lost opportunity for everyone.  Government should formulate a strategic partnership with civil society organisations for the effective realisation of NDP goals. This partnership could either be built around principles of open government partnership that provides for constructive engagement, defining commitments for change and institutional arrangements for the partnership or government discussing arrangements with civil society groups like Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition. Initial steps should include the Prime Minister issuing practice directives to all MDAs  to provide easy access to essential information for civil society to monitor contracts across government agencies. The directive should also provide for official space in which results of civil society monitoring can be discussed with respective agencies to take corrective measures on contracts on the basis of findings. On their part civil society should invest in strengthening capacities for constructive engagement, monitoring service contracts, managing communications and reporting for results.

Civil society under the Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition (UCMC) have been working with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) together with selected government agencies to pilot open contracting actions. So far under this partnership tools for facilitating communities to monitoring contracts for construction of classrooms, roads and NAADS have been developed and implemented on small scale. This partnership should be scaled up in the framework of National Development Plan and the Presidential Baraza initiative.

To strengthen these efforts Government should streamline existing initiatives by institutionalising open contracting. Government should bring on board civil society to monitor service contracts and provide feedback in the framework of Baraza initiative. In this regard, public agencies should focus on delivering services and providing information to civil society while civil society should monitor and report back to respective government agencies like The Office of the Prime Minister and other agencies and governments administratively responsible for contracts and services under consideration.