The recent threat by President Museveni to sack Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), District Health Officers (DHOs) and Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) who let Covid-19 vaccines expire should not be taken at face value.
It needs further elaboration. Why would citizens cringing in fear of a global epidemic be denied the chance to get a vaccine that can defend them against the possibility of severe illness or death from corona? What lies behind this failure to deliver?
Knowledge is power. So the cliché goes. The opposite of knowledge is ignorance. But is ignorance the whole story when it comes to the problems that afflict us?
Everybody has their explanations but I believe the real reason why things don’t get done or, when done, don’t get done well is incompetence. People in positions of responsibility have the necessary education and skills to get the job done but they simply do not apply themselves! I’m short, they’re incompetent.
Recently, a family member had an incident at one of Kampala’s busy roads. When motorcycles carrying armed men appear on both sides of your car you would want to investigate further if only to get peace of mind. All our explanations that these could have been private security guards travelling to work could not allay the mounting fears. So we did the logical thing. We reported to the police.
The police assured us that the CCTV cameras would demystify the incident. The people manning the CCTV controls, however, discovered that some of the cameras are actually blind. They later told us that the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) road contractors tamper with the connections when carrying out excavations. There is no collaboration or coordination between the security agencies in charge of the cameras and KCCA.
And so like any dutiful citizen, I took the initiative to speak to a senior police officer about the problem of scarecrow cameras that are incapable of recording anything. I went as far as proposing that police should send KCCA an invoice for restoring the affected cameras. But that would not deal with future problems. The right thing to do would be to adopt an interagency approach.
But that is not all. How many times have we seen the same road contractors cut water lines and causing massive waste of water and interfering with water supply? And then there are the many incidents where KCCA spruces up the city with nice roads and then the Water people come and cut up the roads, leaving ugly annoying ditches. It is almost as if the two agencies serve different people.
But incompetence is not just a Ugandan thing or even an African thing. We may be heads and shoulders above the developed countries, but they have had and still have many subscribers to the cult of incompetence.
Lord Babbington Macaulay wrote the following about the appalling state of the British navy in 1684: “The naval administration was a prodigy of wastefulness, corruption, ignorance, and indolence…no estimate could be trusted…no contract…was performed…no check was enforced.
Some of the new men of war were so rotten that, unless speedily repaired, they would go down at their moorings. The sailors were paid with so little punctuality that they were glad to find some usurer who would purchase their tickets at 40 per cent discount.
Most of the ships which were afloat were commanded by men who had not been bred to the sea.”
Recently we were shocked by the report of a multi-storied building that collapsed and killed people in Kampala.
The city authorities are supposed to approve building plans and monitor compliance with the building code but in this case and many similar cases they were caught napping.
It is not enough for people to have an education. They must have an awareness about their responsibilities and be competent in performing their duties. Above all they must know the consequences for incompetence and dereliction of duty.
I don’t believe that everybody is incompetent, but I believe that most people are competent in a particular position and become incompetent when promoted from a position of competence to a position of incompetence.
If you appoint somebody suited to be an intelligence informer an RDC, an in-charge of a small health centre a DHO, and a parish chief a CAO, then the blame comes back to the appointing authority not the appointee.
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