Infrastructure – Ugandans feel ignored

Infrastructure – Ugandans feel ignored

A recent study carried out by CoST, the Infrastructure Transparency Initiative, Multi-Stakeholder Group initiative, has revealed that Ugandans are increasingly getting concerned with the inadequate consultations especially on centrally planned public infrastructure projects, public works disrupting businesses and in some cases leading to loss of lives and destruction of property, that is in often cases not compensated for; poor garbage management, inadequate disclosure on project sites and the use of complex language on disclosure platforms.

These issues are among the most prominent from the survey on citizens’ concerns and stakeholder perceptions on infrastructure projects that was conducted from October 2018 – April 2019.

The survey was conducted in the Central, North and Eastern Regions of Uganda and those sampled included citizens, line sector CSOs, journalists, the academia, line sector associations, and the Central Government.

The survey was based on CoST’s core features of Disclosure, Assurance, Multi-Stakeholder working and Social Accountability.

The findings also included;

  1. 4% of the citizens were concerned of the inadequate consultations on Central Government projects and 32.6% had concerns on Local Government projects.
  1. Consequent to perceived inadequate engagement, citizens in some cases denied road infrastructure projects the right of way.
  1. All the communities engaged complained about infrastructure projects disrupting businesses; in a few circumstances, some infrastructure projects led to the destruction of properties and no compensation would be made.
  1. Almost three quarters (73.5%) of the citizens were not satisfied with the quality of works on infrastructure projects.
  1. There were concerns about inadequate display of basic project information on site, as well as caution messages; where this was reported to have been done, citizens complained about the location and language used (usually English and/Technical) as well as the quality of print did not permit access to the messages by the majority of those the information targeted.

Good Practices revealed by the study; 

  1. Some public procurement entities had improved on the proactive disclosure (sharing of information with the public in a manner that did not require that the information first be requested for) of that information. This information, it was found to have been opened-up electronic and in user-friendly data formats such as websites, social media sites, toll free lines and in the print media, among others.
  1. A majority of the survey respondents were not aware of the procurement procedures for both central (67.2%) and local government (71.6%) public infrastructure projects.
  1. Similarly, 64.7% of the surveyed citizens both in rural and urban settings had never requested for any information from data owners.
  1. More respondents in Gulu district (53.8%) were aware of the standard procurement procedures compared to those in Wakiso and Jinja districts.
  1. Qualitative evidence from this survey showed that residents in Gulu Municipality and Wakiso district have a growing culture of vigilance towards new public projects. There was a good amount of effort to display procurement information on the notice boards for the public to access. And to inform citizens to attend bid opening ceremonies. With a number of instances indicating that interpreters were available at the bid opening ceremonies to translate the proceedings into languages other than English.
  1. Nearly three-quarters (74.3%) of the survey participants mentioned that they had ever seen or were aware of displays of information about certain infrastructure projects in their localities compared to only 3.0% who did not know. Nearly all survey participants could mention/describe some form of message they have ever seen displayed.

The CoST initiative of engaging stakeholders in the infrastructure projects at all project delivery stages was increasingly becoming popular among the stakeholders interviewed at both district and national level, particularly among the larger procurement entities (PEs) previously engaged by CoST.

Indeed, expressions of willingness to further embrace the approaches in the infrastructure sector especially at the local government level were made during interviews with district and central level government actors; However, some PEs expressed the need to officially integrate CoST processes and approaches into government policy and programming.

Recommendations

To Government;

Government through Cabinet and Parliament ought to put in place a policy provision (Formal Disclosure Requirement) to enable disclosure of project and contract information as part of the contracting process. All forty data points in the CoST Infrastructural Data Standard should be proactively disclosed on websites of Procuring Entities.

Measures ought to be put in place to protect citizens’ rights to access basic user-friendly information, and sanctions for non-compliance with set disclosure frameworks ought to be attached and effected where necessary.

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) ought to work with key stakeholders in citizen engagement and awareness raising and access to information on existing infrastructure developments in the country.

The Government through Parliament ought to put in place measures for Information Management Systems for each Procuring Entity. Government agencies should be encouraged to fully embrace the multi stakeholder working mechanisms and develop internal user-friendly data management and retrieval systems.

The Government through Parliament ought to strengthen the monitoring and supervisory functions of the oversight bodies such as the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity, Office of the Auditor General, the Inspectorate of Government, and Parliament, among others, at all levels of governance to inform joint monitoring and supervision of the work of these agencies to take action on concerns related to mismanagement, citizen participation, inefficiency and delays in the delivery of infrastructure projects which presents risks of corruption.

The Government through Parliament ought to strengthen the role of the Office of the Auditor General to oversee levels of PEs disclosure and compliance with disclosure standards at national and international levels by; introducing a disclosure indicator for infrastructure projects as part of the indicators under the Auditor General’s audits reports. The same ought to apply to procurement audits conducted by the PPDA.

The policy guidelines for all sector classifications have not been reviewed for some years, and thus have no provisions for how much and what information should be disclosed by Pes. Government ought to also put in place a mechanism through the Ministry of Works and Transport to review sector guidelines to new national settings and international standards.

To the contractors and consultants;

To closely work with beneficiary communities and local leaders to increase participation for the locals, safety of workers and security of construction materials; and

To embrace the disclosure of infrastructure data as a norm and ensure constant updates to the citizens on the status of projects implementation to build citizens’ trust and address the unnecessary anxiety from citizens related to the lack of information

To the citizens of Uganda;

A better infrastructure is everybody’s right and pride; engage your leaders to contribute to better delivery of infrastructure projects.

Participating in infrastructure delivery enables the citizens to realize cost-effective delivery of improved infrastructure.

Communities are able to access work and markets on better roads, drink safe water from quality structures, be educated in well-constructed schools and receive medical care in safe hospitals.

Without the citizen’s full engagement and participation; the quality of any of these may be compromised.

Olive Kabatwairwe, Coordinator, CoST Uganda

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