Northern Uganda is the poorest region in the country due to decades of conflict between the Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The multidimensional poverty index (MPI) calculates that around 86% of the population in the North are MPI poor. In 2010 the Government of Uganda (GoU) and humanitarian actors concluded that Uganda no longer warranted a Consolidated Appeals Process in 2011 and by March 2011 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had closed its office in Gulu.
In the past few years the region has been in a post conflict recovery and transition phase with a large proportion of the population returning home from refugee camps and in need of a variety of services such as health and education as well as access to water, roads and land. A number of recovery programmes have been established under the Office of the Prime Minster (OPM) namely the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), the first phase is coming to a close (2009-2012) and the second phase is due to start July 2012-2015. Other programmes under PRDP include Agricultural Livelihood Recovery Project for Northern Uganda (ALREP), Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF), Northern Uganda Rehabilitation Programme (NUREP), Northern Uganda Development of Enhanced Local Government Infrastructure and Livelihood Program (NUDEIL), Karamoja Livelihoods Programme (KALIP) and the Northern Uganda Transition Initiative (NUTI).
Our partner organisation Development, Research and Training (DRT), based in Kampala Uganda, is undertaking research in five districts in Northern Uganda (Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Kotido and Katakwi) to track resources and information flows at the community level. The purpose is to gather and analyse financial data from donors and the government as well as understand what feedback mechanisms are in place for communities to communicate their needs and the quality of the resources they are receiving.
The team met with a number of local government officials at the district level to understand some of the key issues; discuss the challenges in terms of government and donor funding as well as gather budget data. District budgets consist mainly of central government grants (as much as 96%); local revenue (around 1%) and donor funding (around 3%), but it varies from district to district. There are a number of challenges at local government such as limited funding, funds that have been budgeted for but are not disbursed (especially in the case of donors), dealing with multiple development partners as well as securing funding but not having the capacity to carry out the work – for example the proportion of filled posts versus required posts stands at around 50%.
We also met with a number of communities that had been selected by DRT in the previous field visit, in consultation with the district NGO Forums. The purpose of community outreach was to discuss their needs and challenges; identify what government and donor funding they receive; understand levels of information on government and donor funding flows to and from the community as well as select a team of volunteer community trackers to help gather and document information flows for the project. There was a varying degree of information knowledge and exchange at community level – some communities and community leaders were quite active in gathering information from sub county level, others were more complacent.
In theory, mechanisms should exist for communities to voice their needs which should be fed into the budget process at the district and then national level. However, these feedback loops are not consistently adopted in all communities – or if they do take place the community does not always realise it is a formal process. Budget planning is supposed to be participatory and should start at the village level with Parrish Development Committees gathering information on community needs and priorities in August (this should also include other stakeholders such as development partners). This information is then fed in to the sub county level, through the Technical Planning Committees (TPCs) and then to the District for planning and prioritisation. In November every year a National Budget conference is held in which Districts attend. By April the Comprehensive Development Plan should be agreed and in June final feedback should be given to Lower Local Councils to communicate back to the Parrish and communities.
Information gathering and documentation is problematic, at both the national and district level. Very few government personnel have internet access and no one has work emails. Budget documents are usually available in hard, not soft copy and in some cases, for some years, budgets are not available at all. The lack of easily accessible information demonstrates the vital need for an Open Data Platform in Uganda, which DRT plan to develop. In some districts stakeholders highlighted the challenges in tracking resources especially funds to and from development partners. For example, development partners often do not declare their budgets at the District level. In Gulu the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) is funded approximately 30% by government and 70% by donors, with the majority of donor funding going to non-governmental organisations (NGOs). However, NGO funding is much harder to trace and monitor compared to government contributions. With more and more donors signing up to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and making it a requirement that NGOs comply to the same reporting standards – it is hoped that tracking NGO contributions at district level will become easier to monitor, especially in terms of impact.
This is a three year project funded by DFID’s Partnership Programme Agreement (PPA). This article covers lessons learnt from the second field trip undertaken by DRT in June 2012. Further field trips are due to take place throughout the programme and more updates will be available.
For further information please contact the author of this article, Kerry Smith, Programme Manager for the Africa hub, via email Kerry@devinit.org
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