Thursday, March 6, 2008



By John Eremu

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni said in his State of the Nation address a day before the reading of the 2005/06 budget that government is to provide Members of Parliament with a Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to facilitate development projects in their areas.
The proposal is a brilliant idea in a country constituents expect a lot of financial support from their elected representatives. No wonder some MPs fear visiting their constituencies unless they are financially prepared enough.
My only concern is how such a fund will be managed and apportioned among the varied constituencies. Ugandan parliament has six categories of MPs. The directly elected members, whose constituencies are much smaller. Then we have those who represent interest groups with much bigger constituencies.

The women MPs represent districts. MPs for the youth and persons with disabilities have whole regions as their constituencies. Then we have the workers and the army representatives whose constituents are nationwide. It would certainly be unfair if the amount given per constituency is uniform.

It will also be a tall order holding MPs accountable in case they misappropriate the money. The grounds under which an MP could be recalled are clear under Article 84 of the 1995 Constitution and mismanagement of public funds is not one of them. Moreover an enabling law for the recall of legislators is yet to be passed, 10 years after the promulgation of the Constitution.

The creation of a parallel development fund outside the established structures also smacks of a vote of no confidence in the local governments and other Constitutional organs charged with executing development programmes.

MPs already get a monthly constituency allowance of sh150,000, they should first account for how they have utilized the funds before being entrusted with more.
If CDF motive is genuine development, the funds should be channelled through Non-Governmental Organisations or local governments, the Constitutional administrative units charged with executing development programmes at the grassroots.

Local Governments under Article 190 of the Constitution are charged with preparation of comprehensive and integrated development plans incorporating plans of lower level councils for submission to the National Planning Authority.

The MPs with development plans specific to their constituencies, should only ensure such plans are integrated into the local government plans. The CDF is then sent as part of the Central Government conditional grants to the districts and not through the MPs.

The legislature, as an independent arm of Government should concentrate on its Constitutional role of making good laws for peace, order and development and not engage in micromanagement of programmes.

It was against the spirit of separation of powers that the Constitution made MPs watchdogs over public expenditure and monitors to ensure efficient implementation of public programmes by the responsible organs.

It is the commercialisation of our politics that makes constituents expect monetary rewards for their votes. The constituents find it difficult for someone who showered them with a lot of money during elections to all of a sudden say he or she does not have money when elected. It is the high time the masses are clearly sensitised about the roles of the various government organs including that of the legislature, which is simply to make laws and act as a check on the executive and not engage in developmental programmes.

While the intention of the fund is good because it will be given to all MPs irrespective of ideological beliefs, CDF is likely to be misunderstood as we near the 2006 general elections. Adam Wood, the out-going British High Commissioner to Uganda has already observed that the fund appears to favour the incumbent MPs. The best option is to channel the money through the sub-counties.