“Dr. Clark said technocrats are concerned with “procedures”; I think he was being careful describing what happens; to me that is just operating the “sharing” mechanisms/formulae,” he says.
By Patrick Abal
Oyam – 23, June 2021: Having served for a decade and half as a junior to middle rank administrative officer in Uganda public service and later for a decade more with U.N., I like to comment on Dr. Ian Clark’s post, as well as J.B Okello-Okello’s rejoinder.
I entirely agree with Dr. Clark on the “excuses” the various leaders make to pass the buck, but disagree with their real reason for those excuses. And, when Dr. Clark apportioned the entire failure of policy implementation to lack of “implementers”, I don’t agree. The construct of policy management in Uganda is that based on reviews of implementation of previous policies by “intellectuals”, gaps are identified along with new challenges warranting new policy.
Thus, is put together with all analysis and projections to the political leaders to consider and approve, then passed on to the intellectuals/technocrats/civil servants to execute. Then why don’t they; why this paralysis?
Here is where I agree with J.B Okelo-Okello. A leader who owns the policy/programme/project must be the one who is passionate about the objective achieved. And, this leader must be aware of the “consequence” of failure.
From Dr. Clark’s example on Vision 2020 of Uganda attaining middle-income status, there was no “consequence” of failure on anybody, so why bother? That goes for the entire leadership at every echelon. I also believe that the “we are here to stay” mentality contributes to this paralysis. The moment a leader begins to see himself/herself as holding the same office for several decades, the leadership system begins to get clogged as the drive to prove oneself wanes.
Then, the system operatives begin to focus on what they can “get” when the going is still good. This opens the floodgate of “the mother of policy failure” – corruption. To me corruption is the “Covid” in the Uganda system. As corruption pervades the entire system, every operative is a “hunter” or a “virus”. This cascades to LC1.
Dr. Clark said technocrats are concerned with “procedures”; I think he was being careful describing what happens; to me that is just operating the “sharing” mechanisms/formulae; if he gets it right, he is safe; otherwise he gets carted to Luzira.
Dr. Clark further says political leaders say their role is monitoring work of technocrats; I think they are perched up high up there like hawks to ensure their “cut” is done well. I recently read that a political supervisor in one government company asked for US$ 50,000 to facilitate her recent campaigns! They are not innocent “watchers”.
And each of those “cuts” creates clots in the vein of Uganda socio-economic veins. In the end, many clots will limit the “oxygen” in the blood. Uganda will need a Magufuli to clear this clogged system. There was a programme in 1992 to 1996 in which I participated – demobilizing army servicemen: Uganda Veterans Assistance Programme.
To me, because of the hybrid in its management, that stands out to be one of the most efficiently executed programmes in Uganda to date. Once the programme document was drawn and appropriate law enacted for its execution, everything went like clockwork. At the end, the targeted 35,000 servicemen were home learning new trades.
A senior security official saw I had 33,000 iron-sheets for distribution to veterans and tried to tempt me to divert some to the District Monitoring Committee but backed off when I challenged him what it would mean if 200 veterans missed and starting rioting in the district.
I don’t blame intellectuals for the paralysis; they do their work well and come up with marvelous plans; I don’t entirely blame implementers either; they are doing what the system expects from them. Then you must know where the buck stops.
Can the newly sworn government do a “Magufuli” to Uganda? That remains to be seen.
The author is a clan chief of Arak Ongoda, and a retired civil servant.