At midnight on July 1, 2017, six new districts came into effect.
The latest six are the second batch in a phased framework that will see 23 new districts created by July 1, 2019, bringing the total number of districts to 135.
The cost of public administration under the current political leadership is mindboggling, and shows how warped our government’s priorities are. According to cabinet’s own estimates, a new district requires Shs 59 billion to start. A new district requires an additional Shs 14 billion to run its administration annually.
Therefore, to create the 23 new districts passed in 2015, the government will spend Shs 1.35 trillion and another Shs 322 billion annually.
On account of this prohibitive cost, the government had imposed a moratorium on creation of new districts, but typically, with an eye on the 2016 elections, the powers that be yielded to pressure and allowed 23 new districts, albeit phased over a four-year period.
Thus the first batch of new districts took effect on July 1, 2016 (Kagadi, Kakumiro, Omoro and Rubanda). On July 1, 2017, we got Namisindwa, Pakwach, Butebo, Rukiga, Kyotera and Bunyangabu.
On July 1, 2018, Nabilatuk, Bugweri, Kasanda, Kwania, Kapelebyong and Kikuube will come on board. To complete the list on July 1, 2019, Obongi, Kazo, Rwampara, Kitagwenda, Madi-Okollo, Karenga and Lusot will be born.
New districts come with new constituencies; so, we are likely to have not less than 460 members of parliament by July 2019. Added to the local government apparatus in each district, the result is a public administration setup that is burdensome to the taxpayer.
Districts are not centres of production but, rather, consumption. Some of the newly created entities lack even the most basic physical structures and will have to begin from scratch. Resources that should be going towards fighting poverty are now likely to be diverted to serve public administration.
Now, Shs 180bn is to be spent to expand the chamber of parliament to accommodate the fast-rising number of MPs arising from the multiplication of districts and constituencies. Are new districts and MPs really Uganda’s most pressing priority? This haemorrhage must stop.