Recentralization of local government chief administrative officers appointments in Uganda: Implications for downward accountability

Lazarus Nabaho


The Uganda Constitution of 1995 spelt out the principle of decentralization by devolution. Accordingly, from 1995 to 2005, district local governments had a dejure mandate to hire and fire all categories of civil servants through their respective district service commissions (DSCs). Following the Constitutional amendment in September 2005, the right to hire and fire district chief administrative officers (CAOs) reverted to central government. Critics of recentralization of CAO appointments contend that the shift in the policy and legislation for managing CAOs runs contrary to the principles of decentralization by devolution. This paper argues that recentralization of CAOs has confused reporting, reduced the autonomy of sub-national governments in civil service management, undermined accountability of CAOs to elected councils, and shifted the loyalty of CAOs from local governments with and for which they work to central government that appoints and deploys them. To deepen accountability in local governments, the paper advocates for decentralization of CAO appointments, but for participation of central government in recruitment of CAOs within the confines of a separate personnel system. It further calls for a rethinking of the current call by the 9th Parliament to recentralize human resource in health in local governments owing to accountability challenges of managing the civil service in sub-national governments under an integrated personnel system.

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