Remarks for Mark Meassick USAID Mission Director On behalf of the Accountability Sector Development Partners

Speeches Shim

Thursday, September 15, 2016
Annual Joint Review for Accountability Sector Development Partners

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am pleased to deliver these remarks on behalf of the Accountability Sector development partners.

I want to begin by appreciating the hard work and commitment that all of you here have undertaken to strengthen Uganda’s institutions of accountability over the past two years. When we look at what was identified in 2014, the last time this joint review with donors took place, as the key challenges in the sector and then examine the progress that has been made, I think there is a lot to be proud of. From the passage of the PFM Act 2015, to the amendment of tax laws and regulations to increase domestic resource mobilization, to efforts to reach out and include civil society and more citizens’ voices, to the imminent installment of a new e-procurement system, much has been accomplished.

Yet, you are the first ones to point out, as many of you did in your presentations yesterday, that much remains to be done in the struggle for more accountable governance and a more effective fight against corruption. The donor community fully concurs with your assessment. We are firmly committed to reducing corruption and we will continue urging the Government of Uganda to raise its commitment in collaboration with donors to improve accountability. Just recently we saw in the newspapers that the UNRA commission of inquiry found that 4 trillion shillings were “misappropriated,” or, just plain stolen. Instead of that money going towards building 5,147 km of roads in Uganda, only 1,500 km were built. Imagine what the Ugandan road network would look like today if that money had been used as intended. The urgency of this accountability work cannot be overstated!  

The legal and institutional framework that exists in Uganda is among the best in the world; however, issues of regulatory authority, patronage and inconsistencies in the manner in which offenders are punished undermine the system of accountability and foster a culture of impunity.

Issues of accountability are near and dear to my heart. The U.S. Government invests a lot of resources in Uganda’s development- more than $750 million per year, in fact! We do so because we believe that a stable, prosperous and democratic Uganda that is a strong partner and ally in East Africa and across the continent is in our national interest. And I know that my colleagues from the European Union, the UN, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the many other countries that partner with us on the PFM, Accountability and other working groups will agree with me. And while it is true we spend the majority of our resources in sectors such as health, education and agriculture, we know that without strong and effective institutions of accountability at both the national and local levels, we will not be able to achieve the development results we all strive to see and the progress we are making will not be truly sustainable. 

For example, as the AG’s Office itself has pointed out, it is important that the Auditor General’s reports are thoroughly reviewed and the recommendations made are acted upon, both by the legislative and executive branches, if the delivery of essential services to Ugandans is to improve.  USAID, in partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, DFiD, is supporting the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) to carry out more Value for Money Audits and also supporting The Public Procurement Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) to carry out more Procurement audits.  All this is in vain if these reports are not being reviewed by parliament and if parliamentarians are not making decisions to pursue the culprits.  In 2015, USAID and DFID supported tripartite hearings conducted by Parliament with support of the OAG and PPDA with selected local governments to have their audit reports presented and reviewed to ensure recommendations were implemented.  This action went a long way in improving local governments’ performance in subsequent audits.  Better accountability structures were put in place; and, in some cases, staff were hired.  This shows that improvements can be made at all levels if the different actors come together and coordinate efforts to improve accountability.

As another example, development partners and the Government of Uganda are working together to improve the supply chain system and accountability in the distribution of medicines.  However, as you might know, the investigations into the utilization of Global Funds have revealed a significant amount of malfeasance and culpability.  For example, pervasive stock-outs of key medicines, unexplained stock differences, funds that could not be accounted for, cases of drug theft, lapses in services provided to patients, poor grant oversight by the Ministry of Health and poor supply chain management have all been cited in the report of the independent audit.

The OIG audit has provided an entry-point to discuss wider health sector reform, including service delivery, governance and accountability issues.  The Ministry of Finance, Office of the Auditor General and the Inspectorate of Government, Ministry of Health all need to collaborate more closely to improve accountability.  At the same time, accountability institutions such as Parliament, the Ombudsman and the Judiciary have a significant responsibility to ensure that they can call into question, eventually prosecute and eliminate improper ways of discharging the responsibilities of public officers in government.  This we see as the weakest link in the fight against corruption. The inability to punish culprits or bring them to trial will only sustain a culture of impunity.

On behalf of the development partners, I am encouraged to see that donors and the Ugandan Government are working to strengthen the capacity of state institutions to mitigate abuse by public agencies and local governments.  In addition, support to civil society organizations and the private sector to engage citizens, mass media and civil society that seek to enforce standards of good performance on public officials and monitor government programs must also continue.          

We development partners stand at the ready to support your efforts, but as you well know, ultimately, it is up to each of you and to all Ugandans, to make the difficult decisions, to have the courage to speak out when wrongs are committed and to build the strong foundation of integrity, transparency and accountability that is necessary to usher in the stronger, more prosperous Uganda of tomorrow.  

Office of the President Conference Hall- Kampala
Issuing Country