State Minister of Finance for Planning, David Bahati has lashed out at controversial Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Keith Muhakanizi for his persistent public criticism of government’s decision to create new districts in Uganda.
Muhakanizi who is known to be a campaigner for efficiency in public expenditure recently advised the political leadership against partitioning further administrative units, saying it was not sustainable.
In 2015, parliament approved 23 new districts to become operational in a phase until the year 2020.
Four of these were operationalized in 2016 while 6 others including Namisindwa, Pakwach, Butebo, Rukiga, Kyotera, and Bunyangabo became operational in July this year.
By 2020, Uganda will have 135 districts all of which require new budgets to finance administration and the staffing composition.
For a long time, campaigners for new districts have argued that creation of these districts improves service delivery through further decentralization but economists like Muhakanizi say it only strains the already meagre resources.
During a forum organized by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) on Thursday to engage stakeholders in the financial sector on avenues to grow domestic revenue, Muhakanizi reiterated his position saying, “It is important that we move very fast with the efficiency with which resources are used on expenditure, if people are going to comply in payment of taxes.”
Muhakanizi further said: “We need to balance capital and recurrent expenditure because people need these services rather than creating districts and creating all these administrative things. What will happen to the services on the other side? Time has come to debate these issues seriously.”
But it seems the remarks made by the Secretary to the Treasury didn’t sit well with Minister David Bahati who was chief guest at the forum.
Later, he would criticize Muhakanizi whom he accused of defying advice to cease his controversial statements regarding the issue.
“We opened up universities so that people can assess higher education. But now, over 10,000 graduates are produced every year which has created a problem of unemployment,” Bahati said.
“So, as you solve a problem, another problem comes in. But we have to contend with this. We cannot fear to implement some things because they will create another problem.”
He added: “The issue of districts which the Permanent Secretary has insisted and we keep telling him in our boardrooms that – ‘that problem is above you’ but when he comes to the public, he repeats it. Stop it!”
The Minister argued that the creation of districts is driven by the need to ensure peaceful coexistence which is more crucil than any other negative eventualities.
“Think about what is happening in Somalia. If giving a district creates peace and stability and accomodates some people in our society and you are peaceful, that’s a contradiction we have to contend with,” Bahati said.
“We know this is a problem and that’s the reason why when we passed the districts last term in the Parliament, we said let’s pass them at ago. Last year we did 4, this year we are doing 6 and next year 7. We have a plan up to 2020 and we hope that will be the last creation of new districts.”
Bahati disagreed with the notion that the new districts have a cost bearing on public expenditure saying: “We are not creating districts that are not in Uganda. They are all in Uganda. You have Rukiga district being created from Kabale district and therefore the budget for Kabale is shared. You only require additional resources for the new staff but you have the peace that people need.”