• Eva Matsiko has worked on governance and systems improvements issues in Uganda for more than 20 years.
  • In 2012, Eva Matsiko joined RTI as the Chief of Party for the Governance, Accountability, Participation and Performance (GAPP) project.
  • Matsiko credits flexibility and leadership within partner institutions as the key to achieving sustainable results for governance programming.
Eva Matsiko

Eva Matsiko serves as the Chief of Party for Governance, Accountability, Participation and Performance (GAPP) project.

Eva Matsiko, the Chief of Party for the Equity Governance, Accountability, Participation and Performance (eGAPP) program, funded by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), is convinced that governance systems touch everything and everybody, and impact everyday lives.  

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eva paused to reflect on her lifelong commitment to governance improvements, including her experience conducting applied political economy analysis (PEA) to inform adaptations, and the importance of these approaches in providing nuanced interventions that have opportunities for greater impact.

Please describe your history leading governance and systems strengthening programs in Uganda.

I started work in this area about 20 years ago, working on issues related to the 2000 electoral cycle in Uganda, as part of a consortium that worked on different facets of that cycle such as women’s participation, civic education, and media.  Since then, I have worked on Parliamentary strengthening, and local governance systems. In 2012, I joined RTI as the Chief of Party for the predecessor project to eGAPP, similarly titled Governance, Accountability, Participation and Performance (GAPP), and co-funded by USAID and DFID.  Through GAPP, we strengthened decentralization—including local government and parliamentary strengthening—and supported community empowerment and civic education and activities.

Can you tell us more about some of GAPP’s key achievements and learning? 

GAPP was a very successful project that worked in 40 districts and 13 municipalities.  In 2015, DFID joined USAID as a co-funder of the program and in 2017 the program extended its scope to support systems strengthening within the Ministry of Health (MOH) to improve their oversight and service delivery. While GAPP closed in November 2019, we are continuing to implement select activities through eGAPP in 15 districts, including assisting with the COVID-19 response in 25 districts.

There are several GAPP achievements worth highlighting.  For example, on the accountability side, by improving systems and methods, we helped an important parliamentary committee to clear its five-year backlog of audit reports from the Auditor General and supported them to meet their six-month constitutional mandate for timely reporting. We helped the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) to increase the frequency of procurement and disposal audits of local governments from 28% (FY2011/2012) to 78% (FY 2018/2019) and reduced costs of audits from about 25-35 million Ugandan shillings (UGX, equivalent to approximately $6,500-$9,000 USD) to 3 million UGX ($780 USD) by increasing capacity and using in-house staff.

Based on the national 2018 Local Government Performance Assessment (which measures performance and service delivery improvements), 78% of GAPP supported districts performed above the national average, and five of the top 10 performing local governments nationally received GAPP technical assistance.  

GAPP also developed the institutional capacity of 50 civil society organizations (CSO) and elevated Ugandan voices through 80+ competitive grants. To name a few, these grants supported training of over 350 women in leadership skills and inclusive development and facilitated youth-focused and youth-led CSOs to further their meaningful participation in funding Youth Parliaments and accessing government funding for youth programs.  At the institutional level, PPDA established a gender and social inclusion committee and revised their procurement manual to include gender and social inclusion parameters.

In terms of the support to the MOH, upon request, we deployed an 8-person technical assistance team that was embedded within the ministry. By September 2019, marking about 1 ½ years of GAPP assistance, we were able to document savings of about 7.8 billion UGX (over $2 million USD).  This was primarily the result of GAPP’s support for resolving court settlements, enforcing negotiations related to administrative costs, and operationalizing in-house vehicle service, which alone resulted in cost savings of about 1 billion UGX ($260,000 USD) per year – money that is now freed up to allocate to improving health services.

Eva Matsiko Awarding Grant to Centre for Governance and Economic Development

Eva Matsiko Awarding Grant to Centre for Governance and Economic Development

Among our lessons learned, I’d say that leadership within partner institutions is key.  We had greater traction where the leaders wanted to see the change and the reforms. Additionally, a lot of flexibility is required for governance programming to achieve sustainable results, from both the implementing partner and the client.  We had to change and adapt several interventions … In some cases, we conducted applied political economy analyses and then approached the same issue differently with better outcomes.  USAID and DFID embraced adaptive management which empowered the GAPP team to make necessary adjustments and achieve results.”

The work within the Uganda MOH produced impressive results.  What were some of the key challenges and opportunities for GAPP in support of the MOH? 

The leadership within the MOH, the Minister herself and the Permanent Secretary set the tone for success. Our embedded technical team was asked to report directly to the Permanent Secretary, which freed our staff from being blocked by the systemic bureaucracy.  The GAPP team was coming in from the outside to support the Minister’s and Permanent Secretary’s efforts to make changes to increase accountability, but there were people in the system benefiting from the way things had been working.  Had our team reported through the system, all their work would have fizzled out before it reached the Permanent Secretary. So, the fact that she made the GAPP team report directly to her was very important.

Probably the biggest challenge in the initial days was resistance in various forms, from hostility to denial of resources. However, over time the MOH staff recognized that the GAPP team came to do good things that would help them.  For example, we helped standardize contract management and ensure that the right systems were in place, which helped people who were managing contracts and protected the government from financial losses.

How has Uganda’s COVID-19 response benefitted from recent governance gains in the country?

Uganda has a decentralized governance system with responsibilities shared between national and local governments. We recently had elections at the village level, so there is a new village mandate and new village leadership, which is great. The central and district government COVID-19 response is relying heavily on the villages to ensure that people do not move around when under a lockdown order, as well as for early reporting and to distribute food for the urban poor.  The fact that this decentralized structure existed has really helped in the COVID-19 response.

Uganda has also improved surveillance systems in response to the threat of Ebola from neighboring Congo.  For example, implementation of border controls, other surveillance checks, and increased capacity to quickly transport samples are now being leveraged to respond swiftly to control the spread of COVID-19. 

Under eGAPP, RTI is continuing to support the MOH to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. The project is supporting the government's response through our Ministry of Health team at the national and local levels and supporting district level government to plan and respond effectively, as well as ensure that citizens have accurate information about COVID-19 prevention and where to go for assistance.

What recommendations do you have for continuing to build on the systems strengthening and accountability work you have described?

I will start with my thoughts for development partners.  The time when projects would run parallel to government systems and set up independent structures or tools is over. If we want to strengthen the system, it is the Government of Uganda’s systems that we must strengthen.  It can be challenging, and it can be slow. Being creative about entry points and ready to change strategies is the only way we can ensure that what we are doing will last. And while sometimes there are quick wins, development partners need to be committed to the long haul.

On the government’s side, I do not think that lack of skills is the core problem: we need to be honest and ask the question, what is holding us back?  We need to address issues such as incentives and disincentives for work, and low pay directly.  Until we address those things, all the training and capacity building is ineffective.  Also, the issue of leadership is key – at the ministerial, department, and local government level.  It is important to take the appointment of leaders seriously as it has a significant multiplier effect and impact on the government’s ability to deliver services to its citizens.

Launch of GAPP Gulu Office

Launch of GAPP Gulu Office

I hope to continue influencing change in Uganda by working somewhere in, alongside, or through government because I think it is the most sustainable way to create change for the greatest number of people.”

Tell us more about your broader work with RTI on governance development?

There have been some excellent professional development opportunities and learning exchanges during my career at RTI. I have been involved in the Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania activity—funded by the Jane Goodall Institute and which collaborates closely with the USAID PROTECT activity in Tanzania—leveraging my experience conducting political PEA for GAPP, and what I learned from RTI expert Lisa McGregor regarding how to lead the process. It was thrilling to apply this experience outside Uganda, as I led and trained the team in Tanzania. Together we undertook a targeted PEA to better understand the local context and to identify key actors, incentives, and opportunities for change: What are the conservation drivers? Where are the blockages? Who is currently not reached? How can we influence financing available for conservation?

I was also able to visit the USAID Senegal GOLD project last year and we learned a lot about how integrated governance approaches are working effectively across sectors and building synergies at the local government level.  This project  recently helped USAID in coordinating all implementing partners to support each other and the country’s COVID-19 response.