By Ofwono Opondo
Two weeks ago all the two hundred and four Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and their deputies who were appointed in mid 2018 completed their induction at the National Leadership Institute (NALI), Kyankwanzi into government service with expectations that their individual and collective performance will be better, much more visible and consistent with the laws. In addition, the ministry for the presidency has embarked on regional joint engagements with district leaders to deepen their appreciation of the key priorities of government.
Under the Constitution, RDCs and their deputies are senior civil servants directly appointed and deployed to respective districts by the president. They represent the president and Central Government respectively, and as such are expected to exhibit a high level of personal and official dignity, and knowledge on government policies and ongoing programs. Apart from representing the president, their day-to-day duties include monitoring and supervising the implementation of public services in their areas of jurisdiction. RDCs chair the district security committee comprising the police, intelligence services, army, prisons, Chief Administrative Officer, Resident State Attorney, and the district chairperson among others.
They also coordinate the administration of government services in the district, advise the district chairperson on matters of a national nature that may affect the district or its programmes, and particularly the relations between the district and the central government. They monitor and inspect the activities of local governments and where necessary advise the chairperson. And they may from time to time be assigned other functions by the President or ministries. Furthermore, RDCs conduct sensitization to the population on governmental policies and programmes, and in so doing shall liaise with the district chairperson, council and the civil service.
In particular they are mandated to advise the chairperson to instruct the chief internal auditor to carry out a special audit and submit a report to the council, draw the attention of the Auditor General to the need for special investigation audits of the local government council. RDCs are also mandated to draw the attention of the Inspector General of Government to a need to investigate any cases of corruption, mismanagement or abuse of office, and inform relevant line ministry or department to the divergence from or noncompliance with Government policy by any council within their area of jurisdiction.
In consultation with the speaker or chairperson of a council, RDCs are required to address district and sub-county councils from time to time on any matter of national importance. Over the years RDC have taken on meditating in disputes among citizens especially the vulnerable that may not afford or even know the legal system and procedures.
On February 26th, President Yoweri Museveni addressed RDCs and their deputies at State House Entebbe to mark the closure of the one week leadership, political and ideological course that had taken place at NALI. President Museveni underscored the role information, discipline and ideological clarity plays in building an enlightened leadership and urged them to guide people in their district to access government services and ensure security challenges are forwarded to the relevant offices.
In fact what distinguishes the NRM from previous governments is clarity of purpose which has provided strong leadership and maintaining stability for over thirty years now. NRM’s four key principles of patriotism, pan-Africanism, democracy and socio-economic transformation are starting point.
With regard to monitoring Central and Local Government projects more attention should be paid to profiling households, their economic undertakings, and all government programs running in the districts and funds allocated to each of them. RDCs should take lead and coordinate with elected leaders and civil servants in explaining government programs and allocated funds to the people in their districts and guide them on how to access programs like universal education and health, operation wealth creation, youth livelihood, and women empowerment funds.
Even with limited logistical support, RDCs should cultivate rapport with the mass media especially radio stations which are available in their district and broadcast in local languages to engage with the population. Using smart phones, RDCs can document and share photographs of best and non-performing programs.
It is critical that RDCs and government machinery reduce adversarial approach to the media and CSOs because these can actually facilitate informed public discourse particularly on issues of accountability, mindset change, productivity, personal income and wealth. By doing this, RDCs will be carrying out civic empowerment of citizens to demand services and accountability from their leaders. By having a telephone directory of all parish and sub-county leaders including various political parties an RDC can easily crosscheck service delivery.
Creating awareness about how public resources are utilized and what programs are being undertaken is not only a prerequisite for improving service delivery but a major tool of fighting corruption before it occurs. RDCs are encouraged to learn and understand the districts they lead, and their peculiarities in order to be able to cause positive changes. RDCs, therefore, as leaders must identify the needs of the societies they lead and provide solutions. They must help government in causing the socio-economic transformation agenda of getting the majority of the people out of poverty.
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