Local Government Scorecard at the Forefront of Improved District Performance: A case of Kabarole and Gulu Districts

It is 8:30am and guests are streaming into his office. Most of them are elderly people, school pupils, teachers, politicians,district offi cials and the other citizens, all queuing up to meet him. At the extreme corner of his office, awards of various sizes and shapes are crammed up on top of an attractive portable table.

One’s attention is immediately drawn to the inscriptions on the awards. They confirm that he has been recognized as the best district Chairperson for both the financial year 2012/13 and 2014/15 Local Government Scorecard assessments. They also show that the district has been recognised for good performance and outstanding service delivery. This scene depicts the offi ce of Hon Richard Rwabulinga, the L.C 5 elect of Kabarole district, who has served as the district Chairperson for the past two terms. In the 2016 general elections, he emerged unopposed for the same position. Richard presents an excellent case of the positive infl uence of the Local Government Scorecard on the performance of district leaders in Uganda. The scorecard is an initiative of ACODE, which commenced 4 years ago and is implemented in 30 districts country wide.Before the scorecard was implemented, district council meetings were dominated by discussions on allowances and petty confl icts between leaders which bogged down council business. Most district councillors lacked the requisite capacity to perform the oversight function due to limited education and lack of knowledge of the council’s role and rules of procedure. When ACODE initiated the scorecard, the district councillors in the targeted districts were inducted and provided with tailor made diaries that specifi ed the incentives/parameters for performance measurement.

The councillors were guided on how to use the diaries to document their various engagements with stakeholders, and their outputs. From the diaries, the councillors developed reports and shared with the technical staff that would follow up and address the service delivery deficiencies raised in the various sectors.The use of the scorecard has led to visible positive changes. There is improved legislative performance in the targeted districts. According to Hon. Rwabuhinga, the quality of council debates has greatly improved. Council meetings realise useful submissions and motions due to regular documentation and record keeping of council proceedings. It has become common practice for district councillors to prod and hold civil servants to account for the delivery of public services. Findings from the scorecard also reveal that performance of councillors has steadily been improving. For instance,the number of councillors scoring 80% and above has steadily increased from 6 to 29, then to 40 and to 52 in the last four years. The highest total score for councillors has been increasing from 85 to 89, then to 91, and then to 99 points.

There is also evidence that political oversight on district technical teams has been strengthened. After many years of capacity building through training and peer to peer cross learning visits, the oversight function across most districts has greatly improved. For example, the number of district chairpersons who scored ¾ points on oversight alone in the FY 2012/13 was 16. This number increased to 19 in the FY 2013/14 and then to 20 in FY 2014/15. In spite of recurrent complaints by councillors regarding limited facilitation to carry out monitoring of government programmes, monitoring of service delivery at sub-county level has unquestionably improved. The marked improvement in monitoring has been as a result of the strengthened contact with the electorate and enhanced record keeping in the diaries as required. Kyorampe Stella, Kabarole district speaker supports this claim. “I meet my constituents regularly and listen to their needs. I tell them what is possible in the budget and what is not possible. They understand and for that reason, they cannot demand for what is not possible”. John Okwanga, Gulu District Speaker shares similar sentiments. “The scorecard has made many of us to get closer to our people. There is a tendency for leaders to forget their constituencies and concentrate on personal issues once they get elected into office, yet it is important to understand the challenges of the community so that they can be addressed”.

The scorecard has influenced citizens’ choice of leaders. For example in Gulu and Kabarole districts, the district Chairpersons largely used their scorecard results to convince the electorate to re-elect them. Hon Richard Rwabulinga of Kabarole largely attributes his re-election to the scorecard. Surely the local government scorecard contributed so much to my victory and the development of my district. I know that some of my opponents decided to stand down and let me go unopposed because I did not have to explain too much. The writing was on the wall through the scorecard. The people of Kabarole know what they want, i.e. good quality leadership and service delivery. My consistently good performance assured them that I can deliver, and I will deliver”. Hon. Kyorampe adds to his view. “My self-esteem grew stronger with my good performance. In my constituency, I did not struggle much to introduce myself during the elections; they already knew me from ACODE calendars. A total of 78% of
our previous councillors were not returned to office because of their poor performance.

Even when I contested for the positionof Speaker in the council, I showed them my scorecard results and won in the male dominated territory”. Although they acknowledge that it is a good initiative, district political leaders believe the scorecard is ambitious and requires more funding so that it can be extended to all districts. The poor performance of some leaders also undermines the effort. Documentation equipment such cameras are lacking in districts yet they are important in accounting for the work done. District leaders have made a general appeal for the initiative to be rolled out to the subcounty levels and Parliament, so as to ensure service delivery improves countrywide. They urge civil society to advocate for adequate government funding to district local governments to improve on service delivery.