By Richard Tusiime
Its day one of the civic educators training, leadership and accountability is the module under discussion, the chief facilitator Mr. John Murungi Amooti,Senior Project officer, Civic Education, pauses a question, ‘how often do you, as citizens have you taken a personal initiative to monitor and supervise the government workers, project and property within your communities?’
The response from the civic educators was worrying? Many of them replied in negative that they had never thought of that, and there justifications are, the leaders will ask who are we? Who gave us the mandate to monitor, supervise government properties? Some said that the leaders would ask them for their academic papers that show their competence and qualifications to do such! While as other admitted they have never thought of such and thus they do not need to blame their leaders for failure to do so, the facilitator proceeded to respond to such questions refereeing to the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995, Article 17 clause[ f] and[ i] which call citizens to protect and preserve public property; and to combat corruption and misuse or wastage of public property and this can be done through monitoring and supervising the use of government properties and projects and by invoking Article 38 which calls every Ugandan to participate in the affairs of the government individually and or through his or her representatives in accordance with the law.
This calls upon the citizens to engage their leaders individually or collectively on any matter that they feel or think requires the attention of leaders,
Mr. Murungi further told the civic educators that access to information was very vital to enable the communities participate effectively in the monitoring of government and there is the Access to Information Act which empowers citizens to hold their leaders accountable. This right is guaranteed to every Ugandan; it is a requirement in the Access to Information Act, 2005.
The Act provides for request of information, by a citizen, upon which the Government is required to provide this information within 21 days. Communities cannot monitor government programs without program information, even when everything goes as planned, the citizens still need to know how much has been paid to deliver a service and also that it is their constitutional responsibility to monitor all the affairs of the Government and that community Participation is instrumental in guarding against abuse of office by public servants and political leaders. It has also provided a control against excessive discretion being vested in civil servants in public procedures. Community participation provides checks and balances against unnecessary political interference in service delivery and disregard for professionalism and meritocracy in the public sector amongst others
The facilitator Why is it that majority of the citizens are not aware this constitutional obligation and duty? What are the reasons for non involvement of citizens in monitoring and supervision of government projects? In an attempt to answer all these we realized it major two problems are; lack of information and the mindset or attitude of the citizens therefore to address the above, information with regard to how, when and why should they be part of the process was addressed by the facilitator, but with their attitude and boost their confidence levels for them to civically interact with leaders we agreed to have a transact walk the following morning with civic educators to make spot visit supervision to different government offices/officials, projects and programs within the sub county to ascertain if indeed the reasons they gave are real, fortunately, the few officials and offices we managed to reach too such questions were never asked to the Civic educators, this isn’t because some of us were identified as KRC Staff but we behaved like real community members of Mahyoro, we were civic educators that day too, we had to remove the “coat” of KRC and we put on a coat of the local people, this enabled the civic educators to interact with their leaders both political and technocrats and pose few question which were positively answered and at the end of the walk, the attitude, thinking and mindset of the civic educators had positively changed that it will enable them to further engage their leaders in monitoring, supervision and demanding for accountability on critical issues that concerns the community.