Local Governments in Uganda embrace Infrastructure Transparency through the CoST IMT

Local Governments in Uganda embrace Infrastructure Transparency through the CoST IMT

The CoST Infrastructure Monitoring Tool (IMT) has become an essential tool for local governments as most of the district works committees, technocrats (Heads of Departments) and councilors whose role is to deliver better value infrastructure, monitor government projects testify of its usefulness. Some of the districts such as Gulu and Kabale have had tools to monitor projects but noted that “the tools weren’t elaborate like the new Infrastructure Monitoring Tool” they have customized the IMT to inform their work.

             Programme Coordinator CoST Training some of the districts

The IMT thought of, designed, developed and pre-tested in Uganda from January – May 2018, it is currently being peer reviewed by CoST International with prospects of being adopted as a global standard infrastructure monitoring tool for stakeholders. The tool provides guiding questions for monitoring public infrastructure (roads, buildings, aircrafts, bridges, power lines, waterlines among others). It is abridged from the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard (IDS), the tool once used has potential for contributing towards improving better service delivery for public infrastructure since it gives real timely evidence based project findings, observations and areas of improvement. Those who have applied the tool, have noted that it has potential of giving “mini assurance findings on lower local government projects” It is arranged in four sections (Part, A, B, C and D) with questions to engage with the Project Client (PE), questions to the Supervisor/Consulting firm, questions to the contractor, casual workers/laborers and beneficiary community around the project.

Stakeholders monitoring works at the Agriculture Labaratory at Ntungamo District headquarters, in blue the project contractor responding to questions

The tool has so far been piloted to seven local governments in Uganda including (Kabale, Mbale, Gulu, Arua, Ntungamo, Wakiso and Mbarara). We have received invitations to orient Districts in Bunyoro sub region, Teso sub region and Wakiso district sub counties on the same tool. Stories have been told of how the IMT makes infrastructure transparency possible in Local Governments;

For Wakiso district, CoST work and most especially the IMT have simplified their work. The works committee now understands their role, and through this, they realized, previously, they did not involve the citizens in the planning processes for infrastructure projects; through the findings from the use of the monitoring tool, they unearthed the need to involve citizens through awareness meetings to further get their concerns and aspirations on projects. The findings also enabled the district to establish voluntary road user committees (roads have been questioned on many occasions in the district). The result focused monitoring, also enabled the district to secure 400kms (13 – 15 metres of road) width from the original 7 metres without compensation.

Some of the participants in the district follow up workshops

The use of the tool is enabling the district officials to listen more to citizens’ needs. In Wakiso, during the monitoring, citizens’ preferred to have road signage (road naming) and more information walls; the district has installed road signage to ease accessibility. To enhance access to information and participation, all projects are commissioned before road works start; monitoring is mandatory for all projects to ensure implementation as per design, grades, slopes and width. With challenges of limited finances that constrain their work, Wakiso district still manages to carry-on with infrastructure as they continue to engage central government for increased financing, an experience other districts ought to pick leaves from instead of lamenting,

PPDA staff Gulu regional office addressing the forum members on the procurement process, key emerging issue was the lack of information for centrally procured projects affecting district ability to monitor

In their case, Ntungamo district officials, vowed to have a joint basket of resources for all departments for joint monitoring since, individual department/person monitoring has not given them the results they expected for quality infrastructure has always been a challenge. The trainings on the IMT are quickly touching the districts to be more innovative with the available resources from central government.

Senior Ethics Officer Directorate for Ethics and Integrity speaking about ethics in infrastructure

Stakeholders have applauded the IMT as, it enables them engage with the right audiences (target group) on site, and ask the right questions which informs right recommendations. It has also enabled them access information including project contracts, Bills of Quantities because, they now understand that monitoring cannot be done on hearsays, but after consulting with project documents and line technocrats, this helps address issues of trust. It also promotes team work since they monitor in teams and thus giving joint feedback, thus low chances of compromised reports or thoughts on quality of infrastructure delivered. It is healthy for the contractors and consultants since they receive joint feedback which would be a different approach if it were from one individual.

District councilor Gulu, sharing experience on how the tool has helped the council get evidence to discuss, they now discuss matters not hearsays

The IMT is still under pilot and therefore, it creates more opportunities for enabling it be a better tool to realize better value infrastructure. More districts and lower local governments approaching CoST to train their committees and technical staff on infrastructure monitoring indicates the hidden but realized value of the tool. Civil Societies have requested CoST to build their capacity on the tool so as to carry forward the trainings within the communities.

Chief Administrative Officer, Gulu appreciates CoST intervention which he said was timely.

Despite the challenges of concealing information by various stakeholders, limited capacity of journalists to monitor, inability to hold duty bearers accountable on infrastructure because there is no legal mandate on disclosure and transparency in infrastructure project delivery, lack of facilitation for monitoring for local governments since they are underfunded and are unable to monitor, many of them are expressing readiness and openness to transparency.

We are learning that Local Governments once engaged, they begin with fear and mistrust but slowly become more open and take feedback with keen interest and actually act on recommendations, compared to central government officials who are open right from the start but not very responsive to feedback and slow to addressing recommendations, an experience that may affect quality delivery of infrastructure for recommendations directly attached to project quality and performance. It is important that Central and local governments plan efficiently for the resources they receive to enable adequate project monitoring for better value infrastructure.

 

 

 

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