The party/candidate manifestos provide the written evidence that citizens can use after election to hold elected leaders accountable. In developed countries like USA, candidate promises are taken seriously. Because once elected, citizens refer to the pledges to track the performance of their leaders and outcomes of the pledges can determine one’s re-election.
Since the government relies on taxes from citizens to deliver services, parties seeking election or re-election in the case of NRM should focus on how to create opportunities for citizens to become more productive.
The tax base of a country should determine the type of services that government can deliver. Any serious government must, therefore, focus on the loopholes that are making it lose resources so that it delivers on services.
I will focus on three issues the candidates/parties are promising to do if elected.
Sanitary pads: The NRM manifesto promises to supply sanitary pads to schoolgirls to reduce the high dropout rates. The policy is good and, if effectively-implemented, will encourage more girls to regularly attend school.
However, citizens should ask these questions: What category of schoolgirls is the policy targeting? How often will the pads be provided? How will the policy be managed? How does government plan to raise the resources to implement the policy bearing in mind the many gaps in UPE/USE including low pay for teachers, lack of teachers’ houses, and lack of infrastructure such as vehicles for inspectors of schools?
Some challenges in the education sector are attributed to government’s assumption of the role of parents. As a result, parents relegated their roles, including provision of lunch and scholastic materials for their children, to government.
In some schools, head teachers requested parents to contribute a small fee or bring food items to enable the schools feed their children. But the issue was politicized and some head teachers were arrested or reprimanded.
The fact is that parents have a duty, in accordance with Article 34(2) of the Constitution, to work with the state to provide basic education for their children.
No child can excel in school without parental support. My worry is that parents will again relegate their role of providing essentials such as sanitary pads for their daughters because of this plan. If NRM wins and does not provide the sanitary pads, more girls will probably drop out of school.
Geometry sets: The NRM also promises to provide geometry sets to primary-school-going children. The following questions need to be answered: Which category of pupils is the policy targeting? How often will the sets be supplied?
Many of us, parents, have to buy sets almost thrice a year, because the quality of the instruments in the sets available is wanting. What will happen when the sets are no longer usable and the child needs a replacement?
Corruption: Most presidential candidates have pledged to address corruption. It is an important area that requires action because according to a report by the World Bank in 2012, Uganda loses hundreds of billions of shillings to corruption every year.
Citizens, therefore, deserve clear answers about the steps that the candidates/parties are planning to take to address this problem. For instance, what are they planning to do differently to fight corruption?
Being able to measure progress on candidate and party manifestoes is critical for accountability. Most of the candidates have no targets that citizens can use to measure results on the plans stipulated in respective manifestos. For instance, some of the candidates are pledging to increase funding to agriculture.
What percentages will they allocate to the sector? What will their focus areas be in order to improve agriculture, which is the major employer of Ugandans?
How will they ensure that the issues that prevent women from benefiting fully from agriculture are addressed, for example lack of land ownership and lack of decision-making powers on the proceeds from land?
Without asking critical questions, it will be a challenge for citizens to hold their elected leaders accountable. In addition, candidates/parties recycle their policies/plans if they are not tasked to explain how they have performed and how they intend to make the proposed plans work.
Any policy that is not measurable cannot yield the desired results.
The author is the executive director of Women’s Democracy Network-Uganda Chapter.