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Good Governance; Uganda is on Right Track

By Ofwono Opondo

May 30 2017
Governance includes the state, and private sector and civil society, all of which are critical in sustaining human development. The institutions of governance in the state, private sector and civil society must be designed to contribute to this goal by establishing the political, legal, economic and social framework for poverty reduction, job creation, environmental protection, and advancement of vulnerable groups.

So the important questions to answer are leadership where, and for whom and what? Our country is fragile, ethnically diverse and poor, but we need to move it through a successful transition into modern, productive, peaceful, stable and democratic nation. Therefore, we need leaders who are knowledgeable, or at least ready to seek more knowledge, and have solid grasp of the essential elements that weaken or strengthen good and democratic leadership.
This entails among other things having leadership that builds consensus around major issues particularly stable and competent democratic governance to provide an environment that respects and encourage pluralism and diversity. Also, have a diverse and engaged leadership at all levels of society (government, political parties, private sector and CSOs), and working consistently to cause socio-economic transformation.
Over the last thirty-one years, the NRM has endeavored to nature an open, transparent and democratic system with enlightened leadership and public, anchored on multiple institutions based on constitutional framework. Some of these institutions include an elected presidency, parliament, independent judiciary and constitutional commissions, a reformed and pro-people civil service and armed forces, a vibrant civil society and the media. As a result, national peace, security and stability, a vibrant economy, and cordial regional, continental and international relations have rebounded.
Last year, President Yoweri Museveni issued twenty three “strategic guidelines,” to refocus government policy and spending priorities towards critical areas that will hopefully accelerate service delivery so that Uganda is able to attain the lower middle income status by 2020.
While we strengthen areas of past achievements there is need to re-examine where inefficiencies persist and prioritize better, remove wastage, and improve effectiveness and efficiency.
Some elected politicians-ministers, MPs and LCs seem to have absconded from duty especially monitoring implementation of government programs in their respective areas but never-the-less still demand to be accorded full respect.
There are some critical elements which if observed would contribute to the building of good governance and these include participation, rule of law, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, Effectiveness and efficiency, and strategic vision.

The above elements ensures the existence of effective mechanisms, processes and
institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.

Participation ensures that all men and women should have a voice in decision-making, eitherdirectly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their interests. Suchbroad participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as on thecapacity to participate constructively.Anyone affected by or interested in a decision should have the opportunity to participate in the process for making that decision. This can happen in several ways – community members may be provided with information, asked for their opinion, given the opportunity to make recommendations or, in some cases, be part of the actual decision-making process.
It is important to remember that all Ugandan laws provide that public authority should consult with stakeholders. The rule of law should guarantee that the legal frameworks will be fair and enforced impartially, particularly thelaws on human rights. The decisions ought to be consistent with relevant legislation or common law, and are within the powers of those making and implements them.
The concept of transparency and accountability is built on the free flow of information so that the processes,institutions and information should be directly accessible to those concerned, and enoughinformation should be provided to render them understandable and monitorable.Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil-society organizations should be accountable to the public as well as to institutional stakeholders.They should always try to serve the needs of the entire community while balancing competing interests in a timely, appropriate and responsive manner. Accountability differs depending on the organization and whether the decision is internal or external to an organization. They have an obligation to report, explain and are answerable for the consequences of decisions they make on behalf of the public they represent.
Responsiveness ensures that all institutions and processes both within and outside the state structure should serve all stakeholders. For the above to work well even outside the legal frameworks the leaders should be driven more by consensus orientation in order to be able to mediate differing interests so that they can reach broad consensus on the best interests of the group and, where possible, on policiesand procedures.
While there may be strictly legal provisions that may be complied with there ought to be the feeling and perception that equity is applied to all persons, men and women without segregation.  A community’s wellbeing results from all or majority of its members feeling their interests have been considered in the decision-making process. This means that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, should have opportunities to participate in the process, and have equal opportunity to maintain or improve theirwell-being.
For good governance to be felt it must be effectiveness and efficient. Public processes and institutions should produce results that meetpeople’sneeds while making the best use of resources. The leaders and public should share and have a common understanding of the strategic direction on broad and long-term perspectives on good governance and human development. There should also be an understanding of the historical, cultural andsocial complexities in which that perspective is grounded.
This also encourages government officials to remember that they are acting on behalf of the public and helps them understand the importance of having open and ethical processes which adhere to the law and stand up to scrutiny. This does not assume that everyone will think each decision is the right one. But members of the community are more likely to accept the outcomes if the process has been good, even if they don’t agree with the decision. They will also be less tempted to continue fighting or attempting to overturn the decision. So even the most difficult and controversial decisions are more likely to stick.
When decision-making is open and able to be followed by observers, it is more likely that government officials will comply with the relevant legal requirements. They will also be less likely to take shortcuts or bend the rules. Making choices and having to account for them in an open and transparent way encourages honest consideration of the choices facing those in the governance process. This is the case even when considering different policy alternatives.
From the above, it is clear that the concept of good governance can play a role at two different levels of the development process. On the one hand, it can be considereda potential area of cooperation between the relevant international development institutions andbeneficiary states through good-governance-linked project activities. On the other hand, good governance can be invoked in the pre-investment assessment process as part of the criteria to be takeninto account prior to allocating resources to particular sectors and regions of the economy and country respectively. There is a critical need to strengthen the three pillars of the state, namely executive, parliament and judiciary to ensure that each is independent and robust but working collaborative to the people of Uganda.

While the above are what we desire, the challenges have been and continue to be an absence of a steadfast national and patriotic ideological view to agree on what constitute the common good, as well as democratic methods of work. It has been difficult for some people in leadership to adhere to constitutionalism especially in this era of factional multipartyism. There environment of weak organisations, structures and leadership that cannot provide viable policy alternatives need to be addressed. In addition there is lack of adequate resources, poor resource mobilization, corruption and abuse of office, international meddling and threats of terrorism that undermine the quest for good governance.