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During the two days conference, local government representatives, civil society and other stakeholders criticized the tendency of the national government to recentralize local government funds as well as core tasks of the local governments, in order to overcome recent challenges.
Dr. Agnes Apea Atim pointed out that “the local governement’s funds are implemented by the centre.” Mr. Patrick Kayemba, District Chairperson from Iganga, recommended that districts be given more power, since decentralization cannot take place as long as the Local Governments are suppressed. Currently, the local governments depend on the central government grants. In the past few years, the percentage of unconditional grants significantly declined while the amount of conditioned grants went up. These fiscal reforms took away the local governments’ ability to set priorities and decide on how to invest and implement their budget.
“It is important to note that each district has its own requirements and needs. These needs can only be met if the local governments are in charge. Right now, we are stagnating” said Mr Godfrey Kuruhiira, Chief Administrative Officer of Luwero District. Because of this, Dr. Apea called out to all the local governments to remind the central government of their rights but also to improve service delivery in order to convince the central government about the quality of their work.
In a final declaration of the conference, participants advised the central government, to review fiscal reforms and increase the local governments’ funding by 40%. Moreover, the declaration recommended to increase the visibility of the decentralization agenda by establishing an educational program and empower local governments by strengthening their capacities to account, facilitate and monitor, in order to ensure the full implementation of the decentralization agenda.
Hon. Tom Butime, Minister for Local Government, was grateful for the recommendations and underlined the commitment of the national government to transfer the power to the local governments, as decentralization is key to realizing the Vision 2040. He promised that the reforms they had proposed in the declaration would be implemented pointing out that he agreed with the majority of the positions.