Since 1998, UDN has facilitated community members to undertake community monitoring of public expenditure and service delivery in the Bushenyi area in Western Uganda - which today is comprised of 5 districts of Bushenyi, Rubirizi, Mitooma, Buhweju and Sheema. Supported by UDN, the communities bring forward their field findings to the attention of the Local Government authorities through dialogues, for corrective action or any other necessary follow-up.
UDN together with a UDN supported local NGO in Bushenyi, Ms Western Ankole Anti-corruption Coalition (WAAC), organised a series of district level dialogues, scheduled to take place from 14th-18th July 2014. Two of the planned dialogues were successfully held in Bushenyi and Rubirizi districts on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th July (e.g see New Vision 17th July, 2014, page 9 and Red Pepper of 16th July, 2014, page 12). A similar exercise in Mitooma District, nonetheless, was on Wednesday 16th July, 2014, halted by the Police.
While the dialogue between the members of the communities and some sub-county and District Local Government officials was going on, police swooped on the unsuspecting participants at about 3.00 p.m. Consequently, three UDN staff members, three members of WAAC and an NTV journalist were detained by police and charged over allegations of "Spreading false propaganda and associating/being an ambassador of a rebel group that wants to over throw the NRM government" - the Black Monday Movement. The journalist’s equipment was also confiscated. The organisers of the dialogue, meanwhile, had prior authorisation from the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) for Mitooma. The detained were later released on Police bond, but had to appear before Police for further questioning on Friday, 18th July 2014. The case against them has since been dropped.
This year, Uganda Debt Network has so far also held Sub-county and District dialogues in Masindi, Kayunga, Mityana and Amuria Districts successfully and remains committed to serving Uganda as public accountability activists despite the seriously dwindling, if not closed civil society space.
UDN community monitoring reports presented at the Bushenyi and Rubirizi dialogue meetings on Monday, 14th July and Tuesday 15th July 2014 respectively by the Western Ankole Anti-corruption Coalition have already borne remarkable fruit in as far as facilitating accountability for public funds.
As reported in the Red Pepper (Thursday 16th July, 2014, page 12), for instance, the Bushenyi District LC5 Chairman, Willis Bashasha, while responding to the findings of a community monitoring report presented by the UDN-supported monitors, blamed the poor state of roads in the district on the negligence of the district engineer, Barnabas Kiiza Mbonimpa and admitted that the district had lost a substantial amount of resources as a result. In a related article, the New Vision (Thursday 17th July 2014, Page 9) reported that Mr. Bashasha had ordered for an audit of all National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme beneficiaries in the district to ascertain value-for-money for the public resources spent on this initiative.
On Sunday, 1st June 2014, UDN hosted a Press Conference in conjunction with other CSBAG members on Civil Society Concerns over the Public Finance Bill 2012. UDN hailed several amendments in the Bill that had been effected as a result of continuous Civil Society lobbying, including the following: i) the strategic controls on the management of the supplementary budgets, ii) Alignment of the Charter of Fiscal Responsibilities (CFR) to the National Development Plan and the Vision 2040, iii) Government consultation on the budget preparation with all relevant stakeholders made mandatory.
However, the Civil Society in its Press Statement continues to call for Government's re-consideration of key issues of concern within the Bill, such as:
i) The disbanding of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget which oversees how the Parliament Budget Office works;
ii) The lack of a strong provision within the Bill to deter misuse of public funds through "Classified Expenditure"; and
iii)The restriction against use of Oil Revenues for recurrent expenditure such as within the Health, Education and Agriculture sectors.
The Conference was held at the UDN Secretariat premises in Ntinda, Kampala and was attended by journalists from over 15 local media houses.
UDN's Director of Programmes, Mr. Julius Kapwepwe Mishambi (left) responds to questions by journalists during the Press Conference at UDN offices, Ntinda-Kampala. He is flanked by the CSBAG Coordinator, Mr. Julius Mukunda (centre) and Ms. Christine Byiringiro, a Programme Assistant at UDN