The Local Government has been urged to embrace change and flexibility in responding to Uganda’s evolving political, economic and social needs with the view of enhancing productivity and service delivery.
“If you don’t change, change will change you,” said the Public Service Permanent Secretary Catherine Birakwate.
She spoke at the Ministry of Local Government top management retreat at Imperial Golf Course Hotel in Entebbe on Monday.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. So, all the time, the best time to change is now,” she said.
Birakwate’s remarks come against the backdrop of public concerns that government officials are sleeping on the job, hurting the country’s growth trajectory.
Some of the challenges include poor human resource management and inadequate skills among public servants; lack of planning and development; and widespread gaps in the quality and relevance of training and institutions of service.
Local Government Permanent Secretary Ben Kumumanya said the meeting was called to induct members to the new sector; enable staff share new ideas on how to assist the Ministry achieve its objectives; allow heads of Department to share their challenges in implementation of their mandates; develop a roadmap for rebranding the Ministry; and also provide an opportunity for members to interact through team building exercises.
Kumumanya said embracing technology and new trends in doing business would translate into growth and empowerment of local governments.
“Our main objectives include wealth creation, production and transformation. We should strengthen strategies on connecting with people at the grassroots,” said Kumumanya.
On her part, Birakwate warned against “doing things to please donors” without “looking at the future” because every time they leave, the structures collapse and the intended objectives are not realized or sustained.
“We should not look at immediate outcomes such as political or financial favours. Because when this is achieved, there is no motivation for more change. Sustainability of change should be for our benefit,” she added.
Birakwate called for consolidation of coordination in communicating government decisions and policy to close any gaps since disharmony and conflicting information sometimes confuses recipients.
She further appealed for more engagement of citizens in public policy changes during planning, implementation and evaluation of the change impact; continuous training and attitudinal change of public officers in local government to adapt to change and also steer it; and allocation of more funds to change management activities to enhance preparedness on the change recipients.
Participants expressed concern about the gap between the qualifications of Local Government officials and the people at the grassroots level.
“You find a veterinary doctor with a PhD and can’t easily connect with locals who form the informal sector,” said a participant.
The training is seen as a step forward since Local Government continues to face backlash among significant segments of the population with many saying they should continuously reform to be more effective, efficient, open and responsive to challenges affecting the country.