• Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Gov’t Soon to Release Funds for Administration and Development in Struggling New Cities

UGANDA, Mbarara Real Muloodi News | The minister for local government Raphael Magyezi has promised that government will soon release funds to facilitate the administration and development of Uganda’s struggling newly created cities.

On July 1, 2020, 10 new cities acquired ‘city statuses’. However, the 10th Parliament created the new cities without a legal framework or budget, which has resulted in disruptions to service delivery and various unforeseen challenges.

More land was annexed to make the cities bigger than the predecessor municipalities. However, because the creation of these new cities did not come with a budget, most of the cities have been operating on the original budget allocated to them as municipalities. This has meant serving more people on a smaller budget.

A lack of staff structures and funding from the central government is crippling operations, like payment of salaries and maintenance of garbage trucks, among other services.

For example, most of the city mayors still do not have clarified power and responsibilities under the law. The fluid borders of operations have birthed clashes with division mayors, including on territory control for revenue collection.

The town clerks who superintended civil servants in municipalities are still in office, but they do not know whether to sign official documents under their current title or as city clerks, which is the de facto portfolio.

There has not been a pay raise for political and technical city officials and for the latter, there is uncertainty about how long they will have their jobs after the Public Service Ministry rolled out a revised staff structure for them, raising hope that new hirings could commence at the start of the next fiscal year in July.

While addressing councillors in Mbarara City, Minister Magyezi revealed that there are plans to increase emoluments for city councillors.

With funding, the new cities will be able to break ground for new development projects from Mbale in the east to Masaka in the central to Fort Portal in the West and West Nile’s Arua City.

The Current Situation in the New Cities

Jinja City

Morris Moses Bizitu, the Jinja City Council Speaker says that activities like garbage collectionstreet lighting, road maintenance and burying of unclaimed bodies and other plans have not been implemented due to funding challenges.

Bizitu and some councillors who have not been receiving their salaries and allowances have threatened to go to court. They claim that the old municipality account was closed and the city account was opened but there is no credit balance.

Peter Okocha Kasolo, the newly elected Lord Mayor of Jinja City, says that the government should expedite the cities’ funds allocation process.

“The source of River Nile is a tourism centre which is supposed to generate more revenue. However, plans to redevelop the city to attract more tourists both locally and internationally are on hold,” says Okocha.

He says that currently, USh80 million is collected every month. However if the source of the River Nile is redeveloped, that money could be tripled.

Mr Rajab Kito, the public relations officer for Jinja City, confirms that no specific financing for project implementation has been provided by the line ministry since the city’s establishment.

“We only received funding that was due to Jinja while still a municipality and this funding is also being reduced,” he says.

Mr Kito says that current renovations are being covered under the World Bank-funded Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) program for municipalities.

“However, on [a] good note, we have a physical masterplan, which has been approved and we are only awaiting funding,” he says.

Mr Ayub Wamika, the mayor of Jinja City Northern Division, says it is sad that the government has not supplied any seed money, especially for road reconstruction in the cities.

“The government promised to give us (cities) start-up funds, but they haven’t done so, not even for the roads,’’ he says.

Masaka City

In terms of service delivery, little has changed in Masaka City, located in central Uganda.

The city’s redevelopment plans included upgrading the road network to first-class gravel and planting over 2,000 trees in all road reserves, but nothing has yet been done. The reason, according to the City Authorities, is that there is no money.

Furthermore, Masaka City has failed to install solar-powered street lights in all places under its authority, or to construct a welcome monument, as promised by its political leaders when they were elected early last year.

Masaka City Planner Martin Kigozi says that the city’s physical or structure plan is being revised to provide for better land use, amenities, productivity, and aesthetics and that it will be displayed for three months for stakeholders to provide input in fashioning the city of the future they desire, as required by the Physical Planning Act.

However, Mr Swaibu Sulambaya, a social rights activist in Masaka City, says that Masaka only has six damaged public toilets for several thousand residents and transport users.

Masaka City Mayor Florence Namayanja says that while they have attempted to transform the look of Masaka, they are still financially restricted.

“We are not seated, roads are being tarmacked, solar lights installed, something visible has been done given the circumstances under which we operate,” she says.

She says that they are attempting to increase revenue collection to improve service delivery.

Arua City

Ms Catherine Candiru, a shopkeeper in Ayivuni Parish in Ayivu West Division, says that in Arua that they anticipated roads will be renovated once they became a part of the city.

“It is like we do not pay taxes to this government. Our roads are bad even though we are part of the city. This is disappointing,” she says.

Mr Joseph Adiga, a resident of Riki Trading Centre in Ayivu East Division, says the government should move quickly and provide graders for city road repair.

“The best way would be to tarmac these roads because that will cut the cost of maintenance. We also need good services because we pay a lot of tax to this government,” he says.

The municipal clerk, Mr Paul Batanda, says the roads are not being maintained owing to a grader breakdown.

Fort Portal City

Mr Richard Muhumuza, the mayor of Fort Portal City’s central division, says they have experienced many obstacles. For example, the government’s failure to transfer cash to the city for various operations.

However, Mayor Muhumuza says that they were able to build 45.18 kilometres of the road using USMID funds under the DDEG award.

Mr Samuel Musana, the acting municipal physical planner, says that Fort Portal City’s physical plan will be completed next fiscal year.

Lira City

Under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID), roads like Teso Bar and Olwol are being built in Lira.

However, street lights in the city are in a state of disrepair. Mr Fred Owiny, the city engineer, estimates that the cost of repairing damaged street lights would be around Shs400 million.

“About 141 solar-street lights have broken down and this is endangering the lives of pedestrians at night,” he says.

Some government officials and support staff who formerly worked in four divisions of Lira Municipality have also been laid off.

Soroti City

Ms Stella Amuron, an entrepreneur in Soroti, stays that service delivery has not changed since Soroti became a city.

“We had anticipated a lot in terms of service delivery, but unfortunately, I see nothing on ground. It’s like we are still in a municipality,” she says.

In Soroti City, the Acting Mayor Paul Omer says several plans, such as beautifying the public garden, street lighting, tarmacking of roads, and constructing a modern taxi terminal, have ceased.

Omer also criticised government policy which undermines the mayoral position saying, it makes it difficult for city mayors to implement plans in the cities.

Mr Omer adds that the topic of city formation was a political manoeuvre, with no motivation to improve service delivery.

“The money which is collected is sent to the Treasury and thereafter it is remitted back in piece meal, which can’t do much in ensuring that the city is clean,” he says.

Mr Ambrose Ochen, the city clerk, confirms that the city’s budget allocations have not changed. 

“The budget allocations for the city have not changed, even though the city is now wider than it was when it was a municipality,” he says. 

Mbarara City

In Mbarara, the city speaker, Bonny Tashobya Karutsya, says that the City Service Commission has been completely established and that they are in the process of recruiting people.

“By the start of the new financial year (in July), we will be able to advertise so that we can fill the vacancies at the city,” he says.

He also says that the council has agreed to purchase two graders for two divisions to improve service delivery.

“We are doing very well on garbage management because we signed memorandum of understanding with different service providers who collect garbage from the residents…,” he says.

Mbale City

Service delivery has been difficult in Mbale, particularly in terms of waste collection.

The city has been mired in leadership squabbles between division leadership and the city, which has hampered service delivery.

Mr Steven Masiga, a scholar and writer at Makerere University Mbale, believes that leaders should collaborate.

“There is separation of power, which is being abused by some local government actors,” he says.

Mbale City’s spokesperson, Mr James Kutosi, says that the city will soon begin recruiting workers to simplify city operations.

“We are going to embark on the recruitment of the staff to improve service delivery,” he says.

Gulu City

Since the city became operational in July last year, waste management has been an issue due to rapid urbanisation, population growth and rising standards of living.


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