President Museveni said at the weekend that for the first time he may agree with FDC presidential candidate Kizza Besigye that Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) are useless.
Addressing a joint meeting of the 2016 NRM flag-bearers (district chairpersons and MPs) at State House, Entebbe, Mr Museveni, who attacked public officials, especially the RDCs for failure to supervise and explain government programmes, astounded the contestants when he backed Dr Besigye’s stance on “useless RDCs”.
More than five sources who attended the meeting that ended at midnight on Saturday, quoted the President saying, “For the first time, I agree with Besigye. I may not agree with him on other things, but some RDCs are useless, we spend money on them but they don’t add anything. They don’t explain government programmes and they don’t guide people on how to fight poverty.”
Asked why the President would attack RDCs yet he hires and fires them, the NRM Secretary General, Ms Justine Lumumba, and deputy party spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, who confirmed the State House meeting, explained that the reference to Dr Besigye came as the President was talking about the general service delivery infrastructure of government.
“The President is not saying RDCs should be abolished but they must justify their existence because some of them are useless,” Mr Opondo said. “They are not playing their role effectively as they should be, to justify their existence. Many of these RDCs are like ministers and MPs. They are absentee RDCs. More than half of the RDCs don’t even reside in their districts, they have failed to monitor and explain government programmes,” he added.
Giving context to what could have prompted the President to back Dr Besigye’s hardline stance on RDCs at a time when both principals are canvassing for votes ahead of 2016 elections, Ms Lumumba said, the President’s position is that the RDCs should take lead in explaining government programmes and allocated funds to the people in various fora including use of the mass media in every district.
“RDCs are supposed to create awareness about how public resources are utilised and what programmes are being undertaken. This is not only a prerequisite for improving services delivery but a major tool of fighting corruption before it occurs,” Ms Lumumba said.
She added: “President Museveni said Dr Besigye has been saying RDCs are taking money for nothing and that he may agree with him on this point. His (Museveni) view is that maybe we need to induct them in the NRM ideology and change those who are not working.”
Although the President’s criticism of the RDCs might not necessarily be targeting the realisation of a lean government, almost everywhere Dr Besigye goes, he keeps echoing his campaign promise to sack of all RDCs as well as presidential aisers once he takes over power after the 2016 general election. Dr Besigye said, if elected, the billions of shillings “wasted” on maintaining the operations of “useless RDCs” and presidential aisers every year, will be channelled to critical sectors such as the health, education and agriculture.
Mr Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political analyst and history don at Makerere University, said although Dr Besigye can use the President’s comments as capital for his 2016 political project, he would be naïve to celebrate thinking Mr Museveni is agreeing with him on the issue of RDCs.
“The fact that Mr Museveni is agreeing with Dr Besigye is a tongue-in-cheek,” Mr Ndebese said, adding, “I don’t believe Mr Museveni is converging with Dr Besigye, on the surface he expresses frustration with RDCs yet deep-down his heart, he is happy with them for mobilising political support for him.”
His view, shared by other analysts is that the RDCs have not performed because they are pre-occupied with politics.
Asked why RDCs were sleeping on job, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister for Presidency, whose docket supervises the 112 RDCs and their deputies, defended them, citing the poor facilitation in terms of mobility requirements as a limitation and insisted that many of the RDCs do a good job of monitoring government programmes although there are some with weaknesses and that that will be sorted out by the appointing authority.
“We are trying to address the challenges gradually in the budget but there is also the issue of failure by other concerned government agencies to act on monitoring the findings of RDCs,” Mr Tumwebaze said, adding that: “The RDCs have no prosecutorial powers to apprehend the suspects, they can only send reports to other concerned sector agencies for corrective measures to be taken and often these agencies don’t act on RDC’s reports.”
But with the formation of the monitoring and delivery unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Tumwebaze is hopeful that adequate attention will be accorded to the field inspection reports of the RDCs.
Mr Tumwebaze, however, warned RDCs that he would “leave no stone unturned” in ensuring that the poor performers are punished.
Most of the RDCs Daily Monitor contacted yesterday declined to comment and referred this newspaper to the Minister for the Presidency.
Meanwhile, at the meeting, NRM flag bearers through Ms Lumumba tasked President Museveni to explain reports that he had allowed independents to contest against them. They said what the President did was tantamount to indiscipline.
However, the President said, as a party chairman he understands the party constitution and rules. He insisted that “independents and flag bearers are children of the same family”. The party, however, constituted a three-man team led by Dr Ruhakana Rugunda to interface with aggrieved independents and report to the party chairman at an appropriate time.
Responding to claims by independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi that some of the unopposed NRM MPs are his supporters, Ms Lumumba said: “Unless Mr Mbabazi is telling us that Mr Museveni sent him on a mission, there is no way he can claim NRM candidates. In any case, how can you be a Christian when you’re not baptised? Mr Mbabazi is just looking for media attention and we are not going to be diverted.”
What the constitution says
Article 203 of 1995 Constitution provides for the establishment of the office of the Resident District Commissioner and the roles provided for.
a) To monitor implementation of Central and Local Government services in the District.
b) To act as Chairperson of the District Security Committee
c) To carry out such other functions as may be assigned by the President or prescribed by Parliament by Law.
In addition Article 71 of the Local Government Act 1997 depicts the functions of the Resident District Commissioner as follows
• Represent the President and the Government services in the district.
• Coordinate Government services in the district.
• Aise the district chairperson on matters of a national nature that may affect the district or its plans or programmes and particularly the relations between the district and the Government.
• Monitor and inspect the activities of local governments and, where necessary, aise the chairperson.
• Carry out such other functions as may be assigned by the President or prescribed by Parliament.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR