Political and economic experts have criticized the National Resistance Movement (NRM’s) mission of fragmenting the country into smaller administrative units.
They say for instance the cost of maintaining the increasing number of districts, municipalities town councils, and sub-counties is shooting to unbearable levels.
Makerere University researcher and development historian Mwambusya Ndebesa, says the whole ‘district-hood mission’ a move by the ruling NRM government seeks to cement patronage system.
Ndebesa says this move is opposed to the NRM’s much talked about ideology and a belief and promotion of nationalism and Pan-Africanism with a broader view of regional integration and African unity.
According to a recent report by the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), there more than 2.1 million elected leaders in Uganda.
Ndebesa contends that there are even many more non-elected political posts including Resident District Commissioners, Presidential Advisors among others. He notes that the more districts are created, the more stress is put on the national financial resources.
Prof. Yash Tandon, a member of the famous gang of four, describes the fragmentation of the country as “disastrous.” He argues for instance that in order to swell its ranks, the NRM party continues to bring in more members through creation of new districts, monetary, and job inducements. He contends the numbers are increasing, but without corresponding quality in ideology.
CCEDU Coordinator Crispin Kaheru says that approximately 25 per cent of the annual national budget goes to recruiting and paying for politicians and according to Kaheru, which is a little return on investment.
Prof. John Jean Barya, the Head of Department of Public and Comparative Law at the Makerere University School of law said the creation of new districts are not useful and a burden to both to state and the taxpayers.
However, he notes that these districts can be changed and transformed into something else if the government and perhaps its successor chooses to.
He says for instance; the districts can be merged later and their infrastructure used for productive purposes in other national projects.
According to Prof. Barya, conflicts can never be solved by splitting districts rather than addressing the root causes of the prevalent conflicts in the areas.
A Parliamentary report on the Ministerial Policy Statement of Local Government, Public Service, and Public Service Commission on for the Financial Year 2019/2020 indicate that the 203 New Town councils and 198 Sub-counties that were created are not fully operational.
The report also notes that some are existing in shadow having no staff and that there is no provision for budget for wages, non-wage and Development in the next financial year 2019/ 2020.
Corti Paul Lakuma, a Research Fellow, in Macro Department at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) says while the argument of extending services to the people and sharing power was initially viable, it is currently becoming too costly to maintain.
“Creation of more districts, of course, increases on government’s operational costs in terms of salaries, non-wage and it affects the development budgets of those units you will find most districts will only be spending on salaries. But there is the other side of it. The argument from those who create these units or those who advocate for them has been we need to share power more to give people more say but these are not viable financially I would say,” Lakuma told this publication.
Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, however, maintains that the creation of new administrative units is mainly to bring services closer to the people and to deal with local conflicts.
Opondo says there are many stakeholders in Uganda and that the President responds to what Ugandans demand and he cannot simply ignore simply because a section of the population is against it.