Uganda's Experience in the Use
of Service Delivery Surveys
Secretary to the Inspectorate of Government
Republic of Uganda
Uganda is situated in Africa along the Equator. Longitude location is
between 29º and 36º. The country population is about 18 million
people. Uganda was one of the most promising developing countries in Africa
south of the Sahara, particularly with regard to infrastructural
development and service delivery.
At independence in 1962, Uganda inherited a system of government
characterised by sub-centres of power in the form of kingdoms and other
local governments. The quasi federal constitution that was adopted as the
supreme law of the land accommodated these sub-centres of power while at
the same time recognising the co-ordinating and supportive role of the
centre. During this period, a strong civil society flourished and the rule
of law was strengthened by an independent judiciary.
Following the political crisis that became popularly referred to as the
Uganda crisis of 1966, the 1962 Constitution was suspended and subsequently
replaced with the 1967 Republican Constitution. The new constitutional
order. abolished the Kingdoms, the quasi-federal system and the robust Sub-
political systems of governance. In their place was introduced a highly
centralised power base that exercised-control over the local government
institutions through the devolution of central government staff to manage
the Districts. The devolved staff were not directly accountable to the
local populace but to the authorities at the centre. It was therefore not
surprising that, as long as the power base at the centre was satisfied with
the performance of their officer at the district level, no amount of
dissatisfaction with service delivery by the locals could be remedied. It
is partly on account of the centralisation of service delivery that the
local capacity to manage and provide the services mandated to them by the
centre was eroded. This resulted in the eventual disenchantment with and
degeneration of quality and efficiency in service delivery, loss of
accountability and popular participation in development activities
(Kaswarar, 1989, Museveni, 1993).
Following a protracted armed struggle against dictatorship and the misuse
of centralised power in the hands of a few, the National Rezistance
Movement/Army (NRM/A) led by Yoweri Yaguta Museveni-1 captured power in
1986. The NRM/A developed a political programme aimed at democratising
Uganda, decentra14.zing power to the sub-centres and carrying out other
fundamental changes on the socio-economic front (Y. Museveni, 1992). on 2nd
October, 1992, President Museveni launched the Decentralisation Programme.
In 1993, the National Resistance Council (which was the national
legislature at the time) enacted the Local Governments (Resistance
councils) Statute 1993, which gave statutory effect to the decentralisation
The 1995 Constitution further endorsed the concept of decentralisation as a
principle of democratic governance. Article 176(2) states that:-
- Decentralisation shall be a principle Applying to all levels of local
government and in particular, from higher to lower level government units
to ensure peoples' participation and democratic control in decision making;
- The system shall be such as to ensure the full realisation of
democratic governance at all local government levels;
- The local governments shall oversee the performance of persons
employed by the government to provide services in their areas and to
monitor the provision of government services or the implementation of
projects in their areas. (Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995,
Article 176 (2) (b), (c) and (g)).
The implementation of these constitutional provisions has been facilitated
by the enactment of the Local Governments Act 1997 and the Local
Governments (Amendment) Act, 1997. It is abundantly clear that the
decentralisation reforms ushered in by the NPM Government, particularly so
the power to oversee the performance of service providers and to monitor
the provision of services including the implementation of government
projects, is a true litmus test of genuine democracy and the empowerment of
the local people. This paper is an attempt to examine the impact of the
decentralised agencies/ services in terms of service delivery. It will also
highlight some of the views of the service providers in the context of
- 2. Definition of Terms
- 2. 1 Customer-evaluation
Customer-evaluation may be referred to as a process by which the
beneficiaries/users of a service or product 2,re facilitated to make an
input on how they reckon the service or product should be delivered or
made. in order for the process of customer-evaluation to be effective
therefore, there is need to develop a check list of expectations which in
turn should be used to judge the delivery of services or the performance of
a product. It is precisely against this background that the Government of
Uganda commissioned a Baseline Service Delivery Survey in November, 1995 as part of the ongoing Institutional Capacity Building Project which aims at strengthening
personnel capacities and to improve management processes within central and
local Government. I shall refer to the findings of this survey elsewhere in
my paper. However, let it suffice to say that the Survey was extremely
useful in providing insights on the customer perceptions and expectations
with regard to service delivery.
- 2. 2 Decentralised Agencies/Services
Decentralisation is a generic word which has been defined as the transfer
of responsibility for planning, management, resource mobilisation and
allocation, decision making, and administrative authority from the centre
to regional branch offices, local governments and/or non-governmental
organisations. Rondenelli (1984) distinguishes four distinct levels of
||a transfer of power
to local administrative offices
of central government.
||a transfer of power to sub-national
||a transfer of power to
statutory or corporate bodies.
||a transfer of power and
responsibility to private
Whichever the form decentralisation takes, a major characteristic of this
process is the transfer of power, whether marginally or in totality, to a
subcentre of power and authority. The focus of this paper is therefore on
the performance of these subcentres in the provision of services. But let
it suffice to say that in Uganda deconcentration as a form of
decentralisation is now getting into the history books.
The essence of decentralisation in Uganda is captured in the underlying
objectives of the programme namely:
- To transfer real power to the districts and thus reduce the load on
remote and under-resourced central government officials;
- To bring political and administrative control over services to the
point where they are actually delivered, and thus reduce competition for
power at the centre and improve accountability and effectiveness;
- To free managers from central constraints and thus, allow them to
develop organisational structures tailored to local circumstances;
- To improve financial accountability by establishing a clear link
between payment of taxes and the provision of services they finance;
- To restructure government machinery in order to make the administration
of the country more effective; and
- To create a democracy that would bring about more efficiency and
productivity in the state machinery through involvement of the people at
all levels. (Decentralisation Secretariat, 1993).
The attainment of these objectives largely depends upon central
government's political commitment to them. it may be observed that this
seems to be the case especially so since, in principle, the
decentralisation policy has been constitutionalised. Indeed, under the
Constitutional provisions for the National Objectives and Directive
Principles of State Policy, part II (iii) states that "the State shall
be guided by the principle of decentralisation and devolution. of
governmental functions and powers to the people at appropriate levels where
they can best manage and direct their own affairs."
The policy has been translated into practice under the context of
democratic decentralisation which includes participation and transparency,
accountability and good governance. This is exemplified by the fact that
Local Governments in Uganda now:-
- have had their functions devolved to them;
- have a governmental character: they appoint staff and no staff from Central
Government are now in the Local Government, unless they are seconded at the
request of the Local Governments; they approve and manage their own budgets
without reference to the Centre; they make bye-laws, initiate and execute
socio-economic development programmes;
- have some coercive powers.
- Have councils which are directly elected by the people. There are nominated
representatives in local government councils.
- Customer- Evaluation of the Performance of Decentralised
The most significant contribution with regard to the evaluation of the
decentralised agencies/services in Uganda, is the Baseline Service
Delivery Survey, 1996. It is important to point out at the outset that the
Survey was basically intended as a pilot exercise to set a framework for
future Service Delivery Surveys. Amongst other things, it aimed at not only
at building evaluative capacities of personnel in both central and local
government, but also to provide some initial data on coverage, impact and
perceptions of three key government services and on some potential
performance indicators for those services. The services selected for
coverage under the baseline survey were: The Customs Department of the
Uganda Revenue Authority, the decentralised Health services and Agriculture
Whereas the Customs Department was selected to be assessed in a survey of
businesses, the latter services were chosen due to the fact that they were
those that were provided to rural communities. It- is not my intention to
enumerate the methodology used in the survey but let it suffice say that
the users and potential users of the services were asked their use of and
views about the delivery of those services.
- 1. Health Services
Uganda has health services provided through a network at different levels.
The hospital service ranges from the teaching hospital at Mulago to the
hospitals in the country. Although delegated to the districts, hospital
management remains directly under the Ministry of Health, to whom the
Medical Superintendents are accountable. All other health facilities, such
as the Health Centres, Dispensaries, Sub-dispensaries (aid posts) and
mobile clinics (including outreach centres are under the management of the
District Medical Officer who is part of the District Management Team.
- 1.1 User Charges
The idea of cost sharing for health services in Uganda was first mooted in
1988. Although the policy has not been officially implemented, user charges
are wide spread either as a fixed fee attendance, or a fee per item of
service, or a charge for drugs and materials. The rationale for user
charges is to raise funds to sustain and to improve the services offered.
However, a recent, mainly qualitative, study by Health Planning Unit of the
Ministry of Health (March, 1.995) found that, in many parts of Uganda, the
quality of health services did not improve by the presence of user charges
and the revenues from the charges was not sufficient to purchase items to
improve service quality or improve the performance of staff (Service
Delivery Survey, 1996:15) . A portion of service users resented having to
pay for services, feeling that they had already paid their taxes. Some
remembered the "good old days" when health care was provided free
The same study found that many people chose to use non -governmental health
services on account of cost and quality of service. Other options range
from self-medication, through visits to traditional healers, to the use of
private practitioners or clinics or use of religious facilities.
When asked to rate the government health service in their area, 38% thought
that it was good, 22% average and 22% bad. The main problems identified
with regard to the unsatisfactory service delivery were lack of drugs and
poor accessibility to facilities.
- 2 Agricultural Extension Programmes
A major project in the agricultural sector is the Agricultural Extension
Project. Sponsored by IDA (World Bank) in conjunction, with the Government
of Uganda, the project aims at addressing the issues of disease control,
yield improvement and capacity building to deliver and support effective
extension services. In project Districts, a unified extension approach was
adopted together with a Training and Visit methodology to reach the maximum
number of farmers.
In a recent follow-up Survey to the one carried out in 1992, 70% of the
farmers as compared to 50% in the 1992 survey were aware of the extension
worker and the proportion of these who had discussed with him/her
production- related matters were 75%. More had attended demonstrations and
field clays, and about half of those who had discussed production-related
matters with the extension worker had attended a training course organised
by him/her mostly in local farm buildings, stores or school. Reported crop
and milk yields were higher than those reported in 1992.
With regard to the extension staff themselves, it was found that they
needed more support in order to reach more farming families. Nonetheless,
they felt that, in the overall, the extension system was better than before
1992, and nearly all felt that the farmers had benefited from the new
The quota from the Service Delivery Survey, 1996 complement the previous
studies of the impact of the Agricultural Extension Project. Although some
fears have been expressed over future service delivery in the agricultural
sector following the transfer of this function to districts, these fears
have been thwarted by the recognition that decentralisation in fact, leads
to better supervision of service delivery particularly so if funding
- 2. 1 The Supply of Farming Chemicals an Drugs.
Until 1993, the supply of farming chemicals and drugs was through the
outlets of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
Today, the supply has been privatised and farmers purchase them from
commercial outlets. There is evidence to suggest that supplies are
irregular under the privatisation arrangement. At times the supplies are
adulterated with inactive constituents, the prices are high and there is
lack of advise about the use of the materials at the point of sale.
However, the magnitude of these problems is not yet known, although it
would be quite relevant for the evaluation of the privatisation policy for
- 3 The view of service providers at the District Level.
District administrations were generally positive about the effects of
decentralisation and about the support they receive from central government
with a number of suggestions to improve this support, especially through
offering training to increase skills to cope with the increased
- 4. Customs Services of the Uganda Revenue Authority.
The Uganda Revenue Authority is the main revenue collecting Agency for
Government. Formed as a statutory body in 1990, the Authority is a
conglomeration of divested functions hitherto performed by the Ministry of
Finance, one of which is the Customs service.
It was thought that the Customs activities of the Uganda Revenue Authority
should be assessed since they are an area that affected businesses quite
considerably and could often lead to dissatisfaction. At any rate, the
Authority represents a typical decentralised Agency delegated to handle a
specific mandate on behalf of Government. A set of indicators were used by
the Service Delivery Survey (1996) to determine the clients evaluation of
the performance of the customs Department of the Uganda Revenue Authority.
These are as follows:
- 4. 1 Delays in the Importing Process.
Respondents were asked their views on the causes of delay in the
importation process and their views were as follows:
|Problems with the "Longroom"
|Delay in Valuation
|congestion at Customs Centre
|Too few Custom Staff
|Problems with Clearing Agent
Of the 23 people who gave a rating to the Customs import services, their
views were as follows:
|| 6 (26%)
|| 10 (44%)
|| 4 (17%)
|| 3 (13%)
Only three respondents mentioned that Uganda laws hindered their imports.
Other issues relating to the delay in the import process were cited as
truck inspections which delay the movement of their convoys, having to pay
taxes in cash rather than cheque, and environmental protection laws that
forbid them from importing of freon.
It is not quite possible to compare the performance of what obtained during
the pre-divestiture phase of this function to the Authority but, in the
overall, clients indicated that there was a marked improvement in service
provision after the divestiture.
- 4. 2 Export Services
There was no sufficient data to justify an analysis of the client
evaluation of the Export services.
- The Client-Evaluation of Other Government Services.
Other government services for which ratings were given include:
Figure 1. Business Ratings of other Government Services.
Source: Service Delivery Survey (1996:45)
||Ratings of Services
|Telephone, fax, ect.
|Kampala City Council
It has been demonstrated that decentralisation as a principle of good
governance could either be hijacked by predatory forces or too fledge to
render it effective in the monitoring of the allocation of resources and/or
service provision. Either way, the Programme may be viewed as an exercise
in futility. On a positive note however, the fears expressed in regard to
the empowerment of the people through decentralisation have been shown, in
the case of Uganda, to be unfounded. Indeed, the recognition that
decentralisation has generally led to improvements in service delivery is a
vindication to the concept as a principle of good governance.
Although the Service Delivery Survey highlighted the fact that a relatively
high proportion of the population was unable to give suggestions for
improvements in service delivery, it was becoming more apparent that
households /businesses were willing to give information about their use of
services and their views on those services than before. It is quite
understandable that the proportion of non-responses was high given that the
people were, in the past, more used to accepting whatever they were given
in the way of service delivery. The increased awareness of their needs and
preferences is an attestation to the impact of decentralisation as a tool
for the empowerment of the people.
The reported level of satisfaction with Government health services is
quite good in most districts even though people perceive problems with
them. The frequent use of alternative health services is however, an
indicator of dissatisfaction with the current health provision. User
Charges, although not officially sanctioned, are universal. It is indeed,
encouraging to note that the majority of households are prepared to pay for
improved health services.
The coverage of the Agricultural Extension Services is relatively low and
only about one to ten households has benefited from it.
There is clearly a perception of needing and wanting an agricultural
advisory service, and more than a half of the households interviewed were
willing to pay for an improved service. This indicates a large
"market" for the service which, in any case, should the policy
review of the present methods of providing the spark service.
The practice of buying farming drugs and chemicals from commercial. Outlets
was shown to be less than satisfactory. They are not always available, they
are perceived to be adulterated and expensive and advise about use and
safety precautions was lacking. In it's regulatory role, the Ministry of
Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries could tighten the control over
the sale of farming drugs And chemicals, perhaps by making it compulsory to
offer advise at the point of sale.
The awareness amongst the rural communities about other government
services, other than agriculture and health, is quite low. There is also
some indication that service providers do not seem to share the same
perception on the impact of service provision under the decentralisation
programme. A community feedback mechanism, such as regular service delivery
surveys, could help District Administrations to review services and to lock
for areas for improvement.
Most Districts are reasonably satisfied with the support services they
receive from the central government, although some expressed a feeling of
having been abandoned to manage problems on their own. They clearly
appreciate the local control and accountability afforded by
decentralisation; and it quite obvious that their role in setting
performance indicators for service delivery under the Results-Oriented
Management style is very significant.
The Customer-evaluation of the performance of the Customs Department of the
Uganda revenue authority reveals that service delivery has improved
although there are some areas of management that require remedial action.
All this analysis of Public perception of the way decentralised services
and agencies are performed was made possible by the use of Service Delivery
Surveys (SDS) . The Service Delivery Surveys are, therefore, an important
tool to use to gather vital information relating, for instance, to problems
or successes in respect of service delivery. Such information can be used
to make improvement in the delivery of service to the public. The way
forward is, therefore, for both national and local governments to intensify
training in the design, management and use of SDS so that their
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