Creating too many districts draining state coffers, says Museveni
“Let us cut out wasteful expenditure in creating more districts. We are spending a lot of money on administration when the youth are crying for more money for the youth fund. We cut out these useless expenditures, districts can wait," he said.
NATIONAL | One hundred and twenty seven is the number of administrative units or districts in Uganda currently and it might stay as such for a while to go unless President Museveni flip-flops under pressure for votes.
Addressing legislator from the ruling National Resistance Movement Organisation at the party’s retreat in Kyankwanzi on Friday, Museveni said creation of too many district has seen the country spend a lot of money in administration.
“Let us cut out wasteful expenditure in creating more districts. We are spending a lot of money on administration when the youth are crying for more money for the youth fund. We cut out these useless expenditures, districts can wait,” he said.
There were only 17 districts at independence in 1962 and 40 during the first NRM-era presidential election in 1996.
However, Museveni went on a districts craze ahead of the 2006 elections when he was seeking the controversial third term in office, leading to carving of dozens of small administrative — usually to appease a few area political figureheads who are seeking to take up bigger roles.
“People are pushing for new constituencies because the people who are pressuring for new districts are people who want to become chairmen, MPs… but here you are dealing with big number of unemployed youths, you will get better results than creating new districts,” Museveni said.
The president’s change of stance will be a major blow to the political ambitions of several local government leaders and figureheads at various units across the country who were eyeing districts status to advance their political ambitions.
Last month, MP and district chair flag bearers of the ruling NRM party petitioned Parliament over delays to organise elections in the newly-created districts.
“We believe these services are a constitutional right for the people in our community. Our people aren’t getting the services they need, bills are being passed without representation, districts are functioning with budgets but without a political wing to oversee this expenditure,” said Rachel Magoola, a musician turned politician who is aspiring for Bugweri District Woman MP seat.
“The elections have taken long, we are constrained and frustrated so ate our voters.”
The fate of the districts that have failed to go operational remains unclear as Museveni did not address himself on their status.
Information from the EC indicates that Nabitatuk, Bugweri, Kassanda, Kwania, Kapelebyong and Kikuube districts were meant to have come into effect by July 1, 2018, and an additional seven districts are meant to come into effect by July 1, 2019.
The planned districts are Obongi, Lusot, Karenga, Kitagwenda, Madi-Okollo, Rwampara and Kazo.
As the seven units wait to be operational, Nabitatuk, Bugweri, Kassanda, Kwania, Kapelebyong and Kikuube districts before them have been wallowing in administrative stillbirth since going operational on July 1, 2018.
In January, the Electoral Commission warned that adding more ahead of 2021 general elections could distort the smooth flow of electoral activities.
“These districts need to be operationalised for the EC to effectively implement electoral activities as over the road map. According to the EC Roadmap, government is advised not to create new districts and administrative units after September 2018 for purposes of proper planning and smooth implementation,” said Justice Simon Byabakama, the chairman of the Electoral Commission.
Byabakama’s warning came amid the EC bemoaning inadequate budget provisions that it said had crippled its capacity to operationalise the six districts with Shs11.798 billion required to operationalise them yet to be availed.
“The Electoral Commission has not been able to operationalise the four new districts that became effective July 2016, six districts effective July 2017, six districts effective July 2018 and proposed seven districts that will become effective in July 2019,” Byabakama said.
“The commission is constrained and will not be in position to commence electoral activities in these districts at the same time with the rest of the country,” he added.
The elections in the six upcoming districts that were meant to be operationalised as of July 1, 2018, is Shs3.591 billion, while another set of elections in new districts coming into effect in July 2019 is Shs2.59 billion.
The annual wage bill and non-wage component for the twenty three districts is Shs3.461 billion and Shs3.507 billion respectively bringing total to Shs6.968 billion.
The EC figures do not include other estimates of running administrative functions of districts as well as the central government footing the bills for other leaders.