KAMPALA – The local governments in Uganda have applauded VNG International for supporting their decentralized structures, waste management, planning, financial management on source revenue mobilization strategy through the Inclusive Decisions At Local Level – IDEAL Programme which they say has transformed them.
VNG is a Dutch acronym for the association of Dutch municipalities and VNG International is the international cooperation agency. In Africa, Uganda is one of the beneficiary countries of the VNG programme.
According to Mr. Ejibua Sam Anguzu, Resident Programme Manager at VNG Uganda, in the country, the IDEAL Programme is a follow up of a previous programme called the Local Government Capacity Building Programme.
“IDEAL is about supporting inclusive decisions at the local level, meaning-making the citizens the center of planning and service delivery and what we do with local governments is we support the leadership of the local governments to ensure that at every stage of planning and decision making, the citizens are at the center so they are able to make a contribution,” he said during the End of Programme Conference held at Hotel Africana on Thursday.
The programme which ran from 2017 to 2021 has so far benefited districts including Lira, Koboko, Bukomansimbi, Kasese, Kalangala and Kamuli.
Mr. Ejibua revealed that each one of them was chosen basing on different reasons.
He said Koboko was selected on the basis of how fragile it is because of the influx of refugees.
“Lira just recovered in the last couple of years from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and they are just trying to get to people to participate in governance and decision making. So we wanted to use Lira as an example.”
“Bukomansimbi is a new district and we thought we can use new leadership without clear experience in the leadership process as a stepping stone to test this approach that we are introducing,” he said.
For Kalangala he said it was chosen because feels isolated because it is an island. “So we also said let’s try how isolated local governments can be supported.”
Ms. Lilian Kisembo, the Senior Assistant Town Clark of Nyamwamba division, Kasese Municipal Council thanked VNG International for partnering with municipalities and town councils in Uganda to cause development.
She said that her district started with VNG in 2012 with a local government capacity building programme which took them through waste management and sorting wastes at the household level.
“So later we went into IDEAL Programme from 2017 to 2021 where we undertook two programmes with them; own source revenue enhancement and local neighborhood planning.”
She said that currently, they are implementing a local neighborhood plan.
“Kasese became a municipality in 2010 and at that time, a few wards in the municipality were planned— other areas that were next to the municipality were not planned. We took up this project to extend the planning area in the municipality. So the neighborhood plan we did it in one of the wards; Nyakasanga lll and we engaged the community before embarking on the plan. So the community participated, gave their views on how we should handle the project and we are very grateful that it was really a success because all sectors, all community members were involved and appreciated the project,” said Kisembo who also happens to be the focal person for the IDEAL programme in Kasese municipality.
“Right now, we are done with the planning, community members are going to acquire their land by titling and registration. So this is going to increase the area that is planned and it is going to increase on our own source revenue through property rate taxes.”
Mr. Atul Sam, the Lira City Mayor, told the press that the IDEAL project was able to build the capacity of their local council to change their focus on how to do planning to have inclusive decision-making.
“In case of Lira city, our area of focus was waste management and for that reason, we were able through a partnership to engage the community to that all of us take a responsibility on garbage management and I want to tell you as we speak right now, there is a corrective responsibility between the city and the residents on matters concerning garbage management,” he said.
“Our city looks much cleaner than before because now we have engagement between the city authorities and local authorities.”
He said that the then municipal team went to the Netherlands and saw how the people are taking care of their own waste and they brought back the ideas.
“The discussions started, engagements started and slowly we are now picking up and people now understand that they are responsible for garbage management. There is no longer one-sided where you dump your waste anywhere and you think the council is one responsible for picking it.”
Officiating at the function, Ms. Victoria Rusoke, the State Minister for Local Government to put in practice what they have learnt to benefit the whole country.
“I want to see all this that you have achieved driving to the major government strategy of poverty elimination for economic development.”
“When you talk of sustainability, we want to see the youth, the women, and the generations to come to ascertain that five years ago there was an IDEAL that impacted. So we want to see this live on and on,” she urged.
The minister also asked the beneficiary towns to link all these benefits to achieve improvement in the economy of their people.
“I want to see Kamuli helping Bukomansimbi, Bukomansimbi helping the other until we finally say what we have benefited have resulted in the continued strategy of poverty elimination.”
She said that her ministry will help them to sustain what they have achieved, urging them to come up with proposals and budgets for the government to help them.
“We don’t want the donors to go and there is no trace of what the taxpayer in those countries sweated for to help Uganda. This very programme can even roll over to other districts. Through your associations, you must share, ask help from the government and move to other districts to show them what you have gained.”
She applauded VNG International for its commitment to continuity for the next five years. “Thank you very much.”
Mr. Ejibua said that one of their key approaches as VNG is working with the local governments through hands-on coaching and mentorship processes because they use the situations in which they are to build their (beneficiaries) capacity to do what they would have not done better than what they are doing by asking them to identify challenges within the community.
“For instance, in Kalangala, how we came to street lights as an alternative was because there was concerns from the community about security, women were being attacked at night when they were coming from the market, people were losing their properties because there were thieves hiding in the dark spots and so we asked the local government to use that information to propose a solution and the immediate proposed solution was to light up the dark spots,” he said.
Today, VNG as an agency operates in about thirty-five countries across the globe and in these countries, the activities VNG implements vary from supporting decentralized structures, waste management, planning, financial management on source revenue mobilization strategy and many others.
In Uganda, the annual budget for IDEAL was about 500,000 Euros (about Shs250M).