02 / 1999
1- The context and the challenge
Despite the title of the Unit, micro-projects are not anymore adapted to the Ugandan situation. Such punctual interventions with non governmental actors were meaningful when the government was not interested in other actors than itself to implement any development activity. This is not the case anymore in Uganda where, as in most African states, a sound decentralisation policy has been enacted by the Parliament and is currently implemented. Local elected structures have been created but they are still very weak although many development decisions have been vested into them. In such context, the kind of linkage that was established during the implementation of a micro-project, between the donor and a local actor, is not valid any more. The donor has to move its interests beyond concrete walls, a roof and an official opening that were the characteristics of a successful micro-project regardless of its sustainability and its relationships with the national policy. This approach is now too narrow. In order to be more consistent with the Uganda situation, it is important to build the capacities of local actors as well as their ability to work together through concrete activities as defined in a programme.
The unit’s challenge is to become an interface between centralised actors - delegation and government- and new decentralised actors. It practically splits big fundings into small heaps that can be managed by local actors. Identification of the local actors and institutional building support is done in collaboration with an NGO that already has a competence in the field. At the beginning of the process, one cannot know what are the real capacities of the local actors. It is once the process goes on that one can see how to plan activities and disbursement of funds. It is important that disbursement follows the capacity of the actors to absorb it.
2- Local actors and programmes
In order to have true decentralised water schemes programme, the government (National Authority Officer)decided to delegate his signature and responsibilities to the management unit. In the concerned districts, in the Western mountainous area of the country, local councils linked with local community groups, essentially women’s groups to implement concrete actions. The Ministry of Water provides technical expertise. The Dutch NGO SNV who co-finances the programme coordinates the overall programme. Since institutional empowerment of the local actors is seen as one of the outputs of the programme, the time factor is important. The programme is planned on a five-year period for a first phase that can eventually be renewed. This long-term commitment is balanced by a set up of benchmarks that allow a monitoring of the process of institutional empowerment. Such monitoring requires a specific technical expertise who can manage rather big funds in a quite rigid system and at the same time can understand the process that is going on. Intermediate NGOs with an institutional culture are crucial partners. There exist very few alternatives to some European NGOs as SNV in Uganda to play this role. The government cannot be used since it is part and parcel of the institutional building. Local communities groups, local councils, central government learn how to work together in the water sector. SNV challenges them to articulate their interventions for a better efficiency. The private sector is contracted through tendering procedures. This relationship between local councils and private sector is very sensitive because it is an interaction with high risks of active or passive conception.
An ad-hoc management committee gathers the three components of the programme - government, SNV as implementing NGO, Management Unit representing the EDF as donor. All the procedure is defined in manuals.
Controls must be very strict and in practice the procedures are the same as those followed at the national level. One must avoid to decentralise corruption. Participatory management in a concrete programme is a good opportunity to build capacities rather than directly manage these funds on behalf of the actors. On the other hand, one should be careful to avoid a technocratical evolution where the people have neither a say nor understand the process. The legitimacy of the intermediate bodies goes with the transparency of their procedures. In that case, democracy can really control a local elected body and its administration.
3- The donor’s implication
On the side of the European Union, the human resources are most of the time a limit to such programmes. Development of expertise in the networking aspects would be a great help.
Accessing to the funds is very difficult because of the bureaucracy requested by European administration.
Although EU is one of the main donors in Uganda, little is known about what they realised compared to other donors.
The water supply programme is one of the activities undertaken by the unit. The move from scattered micro-project intervention towards a decentralised cooperation approach is in line with the Ugandan context. The implication of an NGO which is the actual coordinator of the programme has been emphasized. However, it is important to ensure that this NGO perfectly understands its role. Decentralised cooperation should not become another "NGO co-financing" which has its own specificity. As far as institutional building is concerned any "external" institution is very tricky since it alters the overall context.
Micro Project Management Unit
P.O. Box 10790- Kampala, UGANDA - Phone: 256 - 41 250460 - Fax: 256 41 230033 - Email: email@example.com.
[[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]
Interview with STAMPA, Nikita/VAN HAFTEN, Jan