A case of access to information in Uganda from Africa Freedom of Information Centre
By Sarah Faguet
The right of access to information is tightly linked to other fundamental rights such as access to education, health or food. It is also necessary for realising an open, transparent and accountable governance.
Without information, citizens are unable to identify causes of poor public service delivery, monitor the effectiveness of their rights and ask for redress interventions when needed. The negative consequences affect every aspect of their lives from the fees they pay for their children to go to school, the medicine that is available in their local health centre, the quality of the road they need to take their produce to markets, to the supply of drinking water.
Within the “enhancing good governance through citizens’ access to information project”, supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) and its members seek to enhance good governance and social accountability by empowering citizens to access public information and monitor public service delivery in Malawi, Uganda and Kenya.
Proactive disclosure of contract and service information is essential for enabling citizens to get timely informed and participate in the process of monitoring public services deliveries. In this regard, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) is leading AFIC’s Working Group to advance open contracting both within AFIC membership and across Africa.
As part of the initiative, AFIC sought copies of procurement plans of Kabale district (Uganda) for the financial year 2015/16 and 2016/17. Initially, AFIC had requested Kick Corruption out of Kigezi, its local partner to request this information. However, due to lack of budget to facilitate communication and travel to the district this proved difficult.
On Wednesday 8 June, 2016, AFIC made a telephone call to Mr. Bernard Kasangaki, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Kabale District Local Government in which copies of procurement plans were requested. He promised to get the documents sent on Friday. On Friday the documents were not sent. On Monday, AFIC team was in Kabale District for another event. The team rang Mr. Kasangaki and indicated that given their presence in the District they could pick the documents physically. He agreed and advised to pick needed information from the District Procurement Officer.
Upon being requested to provide needed information, the Procurement Officer politely explained that according to access to information institutional procedures, he couldn’t release information without a formal request to and clearance by the CAO. Though, he was willing to provide the information, the Procurement Officer requested first from the CAO a written communication allowing him to deliver the procurement plan. At this point, the assistant CAO coincidentally entered the Procurement Office. He signed a formal authorisation to the Procurement Officer for the needed information be released.
However, the information request was partially granted as only one procurement plan for FY 2015-2016 was provided though the request included procurement plans for both Year 2015-2016 and Year 2016-2017. The procurement Officer asked us to choose on one of these documents only, giving no reason as to why he could only provide one of them.
The information contained in the procurement plan will provide data for use in the Ugandan version of Budeshi, which is an open contracting portal being developed jointly by AFIC and PPDC. The portal will provide information for the citizen to better understand and monitor their public services deliveries. In participating in the process of monitoring public procurement, the citizens will hold accountable their leaders and contribute to an effective governance.