Uganda’s decentralisation programme has been hailed by donors and academics alike as one of the most ambitious and far-reaching programmes of local government reform undertaken in the developing world. An actor-oriented approach is adopted in order to elucidate the view from the periphery: from communities, administrators and locally elected politicians. This approach enables an analysis not only of the manifest functions of the institutions established by decentralisation, but also of the latent functions created by a new set of resources and interests. In practice, a dual system has emerged, the components of which we term the ‘directive complex’ and the ‘process complex’. Under the former, conditional funding from the centre is earmarked for particular programmes. These flows are regulated by upward accountability, and there is little scope for local decision making. While an elaborate tiered system for local ‘bottom-up’ planning is in place, it controls only the small proportion of district funding that is either locally generated or in the form of unconditional grants from the centre. These funds are largely consumed in administrative costs and councillors’ emoluments. Along with the spoils of a committee system that controls contracts and appointments, they provide the means of building political alliances and loyalty in the ‘process complex’. Programmes currently being initiated aim to provide the local resources and capacities necessary for more meaningful local participation. However, in the absence of a culture of transparency and civic engagement to assure downward accountability, it remains to be seen whether these will be harnessed in a way that will promote both efficient service delivery and local empowerment.
James, R.; Francis, P.; Pereza, G.A. The Institutional Context of Rural Poverty Reduction in Uganda: Decentralisation’s Dual Nature. (2001) 35 pp. [LADDER Working Paper No.6]