Uganda moved to a decentralized form of government in 1992, which devolved extensive political, administrative, and fiscal responsibilities to local governments. Decentralization was expected to improve efficiency in the delivery of local services, increase citizens’ participation in local governance, and create greater ownership of interventions and responsiveness to local needs. Turning the lofty goals of decentralization into reality has proven challenging in Uganda, as it has in many countries.
In this paper, we describe one project’s experience with addressing the shortcomings of local councils. The Strengthening Democratic Linkages in Uganda Activity (LINKAGES), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, worked with councilors in 10 districts to implement legislated requirements by simplifying processes for planning and budgeting, and clarifying administrative procedures. An encouraging aspect of LINKAGES’ efforts to realize the intent of Uganda’s decentralization reforms is that when councilors gained experience and knowledge, they themselves became constituents for reinforcing these reforms. Strengthening local capacity empowered officials not only to implement reforms but also to take personal ownership of them, reinforcing capacity-building efforts.