Without money for the newly created districts, the Electoral Commission now says it doubts adult suffrage elections for substantive leaders will be held after the six-month interim period expires.
Jotham Taremwa, the EC spokesperson, told The Observer on Tuesday that their ability to hold elections “will depend on the availability of funds.”
Short of that, he said, the interim leaders will remain in place until the body has gotten money. He said the body also didn’t have money to conduct elections for new municipalities’ parliamentarians.
The districts that came into effect on July 1 are Bunyangabu carved out of Kabarole, Namisindwa carved out of Manafwa, Pakwach from Nebbi, Butebo from Pallisa, Rukiga from Kabale and Kyotera from Rakai.
On Monday, councilors from the old districts from where the new ones were carved elected interim chairpersons for the new districts. Taremwa told us the councilors who find themselves in the new districts will be the interim councilors.
The assumption is that interim chairpersons will serve for six months and elections by universal suffrage will be held. The new districts mean that new MPs are needed, especially the woman MP position.
The creation of the new districts is part of the phased programme that will see more 23 districts and a number of municipalities come into force in the next couple of years.
Districts are created mostly on the pretext of bringing services closer to the electorates. Reality shows it is not usually the case but, rather, done to satisfy political interests.
Analysts have said they are political tools to excite the electorates who are made to believe they create employment and bring services closer. Keith Muhakanizi, the secretary to Treasury, told parliament last year that he would fight any proposals aimed at creating new districts even if that means losing his job.
“We have reached a point where we can’t chop any money from anywhere within the already meagre funds to cater for the new administrative units like we have been doing in the past,” Muhakanizi said.
Jim Mugunga, ministry of finance spokesperson, said Speaker Rebecca Kadaga asked that “a formal response be given in a few days” on the availability of money to organise elections and run the new districts.
It is not clear whether it is the ministry of finance or local government that has to produce the statement. The EC’s lack of funds speaks to a deeper problem that awaits these new districts and municipalities.
Most of those formed a couple of years back are struggling to cope with costs of administration. Most are shells operating without key staff like the chief finance office, district health officer and planner.
For instance, MPs in the ninth parliament were in 2015 dismayed to find that after five years in existence, Buyende district in eastern Uganda did not even have a decent place of convenience at the district headquarters.
With a staff structure of 138, MPs found that the district had managed to hire only 42 in five years. Buyende is just a portrait of tens of new districts. And the talk of extending services closer to the local people is more of a deception than reality.
Government’s five-year planning cycle of 2016/17-2019/2020 only caters for 112 districts. By 2020, the districts are expected to be 135 from the current 120.