Why Govt Failed to Achieve Many of Its Development Plan Targets [opinion]

In our examination of the successes and failures of the National Development Plan 2010-15, SULAIMAN KAKAIRE looks at what made it impossible to achieve some of the targets under the plan, and how the challenges could be overcome going forward.

While Uganda’s first National Development Plan (2010-15) provided a good template that could have laid a firm foundation for the country’s journey to middle income status, experts argue that poor governance, lack of a clear implementation strategy and inadequate resources impeded the realisation of its targets.

Speaking to The Observer last Monday, Corti Paul Lakuma, a senior policy analyst at Makerere University’s Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), argued that a lot could have been achieved under the plan if its implementation was tailored to the national budget.

“When you have a plan, you should link it to the budget. For our case there was no clear link between the National Development Plan (NDP) and the budgets that were formulated during the period of implementing the plan [2010-15],” he said.

Lakuma, a macro-economic specialist, argues that, for instance, the different activities indicated in the budgets were not those reflected in the plan. “If you have a longer term plan, the budget should also be longer term, not short term like it was the case,” he said.

On his part, the chairperson of Parliament’s committee on finance, planning and economic development, Robert Kasule, adds that besides poor implementation, inadequate resources and poor absorption of the available resources also derailed the plan.

“If you look at the budgets during that period [2010-15], we did not have money for most projects. The expenditure on development activities was tiny compared to consumption activities [wages, travels, public sector management and stationery],” said the Kyadondo North MP, referring to the increment of health workers’ and teachers’ pay as some of the activities that were not in the plan yet they are some of the budget outputs.

The on-budget NDP cost envelope over the five years was estimated at Shs51 trillion. However, a review by The Observer shows that the government unable to raise the required funds. In fact, ministry of Finance expected to raise only Shs47 trillion, which it did not.

MP Kasule further argues that much as the government has borrowed money to work on some big projects listed under the plan, such as the construction of markets in urban centres, as well as Karuma and Isimba hydro-electricity dams among others, most of the loans have not been utilised due to delays in procurement. “That is why some projects are not complete as predicted by the plan,” he added.

In 2013, Delta Partnership and REEV Consult, on behalf of the National Planning Authority (NPA) did a mid-term review of the NDP. The review indentified weak public sector management, corruption, poor accountability for results, and population growth as some of the constraints to implementation of the plan.

“These issues are at the core of two of the most binding constraints to development identified in the NDP,” notes the review report. “Slow progress is being made to strengthen public sector management with proposed institutional reforms remaining unimplemented, procurement processes remaining slow and inefficient, corruption remaining widespread and attitudes remaining entrenched”.

The review further notes that the high cost of public administration stands in the way of implementing the plan, since the government regularly reaches into the national coffers to sustain its bloated workforce.

“There have historically been large supplementary budgets which have typically seen extra allocations during the course of a year to sectors like defence and public administration,” the review notes, adding that the increase in the number of districts also inevitably increased the costs of administration of services and reduced spending on service delivery.

LOOKING AHEAD

As Ugandans look ahead to the launch of the second NDP, formulated in line with the country’s Vision 2040, experts say the government needs to overhaul the methods it uses in the quest to achieve its development plan targets. For instance, Lakuma believes the government should created an independent planning unit within the ministry of finance, planning and economic development.

“This was done in South Africa and I think Uganda can do the same thing. It will be the same unit that will help in the final organisation of budget issues at finance,” he said.

On issues of a mismatch between the budgets and plan, Lakuma aises that while the government needs to attend to other demands that are not in the plan, it should consistently maintain focus on priority projects. “We should know what we want to do. Considering the resources we have, we cannot do everything,” he said, identifying infrastructure development as one of the key focus areas.

Kasule, on the other hand, says wasteful expenditures should be minimised to improve resource allocation to priority areas. “We need to increase the development budgets for the road sector, energy and infrastructure,” he said.

The mid-term review of the first NDP, which was sponsored by NPA, recommends that future plans can incorporate much more developmental action from civil society and the private sector as its conception moves more towards a plan which the whole country can get behind.

“The roles of individual households, communities and the private sector in achieving the Vision 2040 results need to be emphasised more in future NDPs, as it is true that without g buy-in and committed efforts from non-state actors, much of the socio-economic and development targets aspired to in the Vision 2040 will remain unattained,” the review notes.

Source : The Observer

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