The Contributions of Participatory Budgeting Processes on the Local Communities Engagement in Decentralized Government System in Uganda: a Case of Gulu Municipality
Author: ODONG MP ERIC
Supervisor: Ika Lino
The study was carried out against a background of a general perception that participatory budgeting (PB) in developing countries is an annual ritual exercise to comply with pressure from supranational agencies to adopt New Public Management (NPM) reforms, rather than a practical process that involves citizens in formulating and developing local government plans and budgets that incorporate their needs and priorities. However, it has been argued that citizen participation in budgetary decision making is typically minimal and yields limited directly observable results (Ebdon and Franklin, 2006).
The study adopted a qualitative approach and a case study design, using GMC as the study site to explore how PB is implemented in practice in a decentralized government system and whether the desired outcomes are achieved. The study had these objectives; establish the community understanding of the PB processes and whether community participation in the budgeting process enhances Local Economic Development (LED), besides coming up with key challenges faced by the communities in the budgeting processes and finally identified and proposed strategies for enhancing community participation in the budgeting processes in Gulu Municipality.
The findings of the study demonstrate that owing to power relations, inadequate locally raised revenues, citizensí lack of knowledge, skills and competencies in public sector financial management, and inherent cultural norms and values, PB may not achieve the desired goals and outcomes in developing countries under a decentralised local governance system. The study further indicated that PB is more political than technical, and power relationships amongst key players in the process are important in understanding the outcomes of the PB process. Evidence from the study shows that decentralization has led to a reasonably accepted governance framework in Uganda. The study has also shown that decentralization is one of the most popular state reforms, but it has not widened and deepened space for citizensí participation at the local level.
The study came up with recommendations which among other included; formation of alliances with CSOs, since CSOs and the legislature need access to accurate information, detailed budget information from governments in order to do their jobs. Careful selection of participation mechanism to be used, the mechanisms used must be selected based on their ability to reach all stakeholders and collect their needs and priorities at a minimal cost to the stakeholders in terms of time and other resources while careful consideration of the cultural norms and values of participants, taking into account political and environmental factors that may have an impact on the PB process is also key. In addition, joint team for data collection coupled with massive public sensitization on benefits of participatory budgeting as well as establishment of Municipal Budget Office whose main objective and role should be to provide the council and its committees with technical and independent analysis of the economic and financial data needed for economic and budgetary legislative decisions are recommended.