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.

Full Text:



ARD, Inc. (2005) Democracy and Governance Assessment: Republic of Uganda. Report prepared for United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Burlington, VTwortwi, N. (2011). An unbreakable path? A comparative study of decentralization and local government development trajectories in Ghana and Uganda. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 77(2), 347-377

Awortwi, N. (2011) An unbreakable path? A comparativestudy of decentralization and local government development trajectores in Ghana and Uganda, International Review of Administrative Sciences, 77(2); 347-377

Bossert, T.J. & Beauvais J. (2002) Decentralization of Health Systems in Ghana, Zambia, Uganda and the Philippines: A Comparative Analysis of Decision Space, Health Policy and Planning 17(1), 14-31"

Brinkerhoff, D.W. (2001) Taking Account of Accountability: A Conceptual Overview and Strategic Options. Draft report for the Implementing Policy Change Project, Phase 2, Center for Democracy and Governance, USAID. Abt. Associates, Inc., Washington, DC. Mimeo

CLGF (2007) Meeting the Challenges of the Aberdeen Agenda: An Assessment of Local Governance and Democracy in Uganda, report commissioned by CLGF. London: (CLGF) Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Francis, P & James, R. (2003). Balancing Rural Poverty Reduction and Citizen Participation: The Contradictions of Uganda's Decentralization Program. World Development, 31(2), 325-37 & quot;

GoU. (1995) Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995. GoU (Government of Uganda) Kampala: Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation

GoU. (1997) Local Government Act (Cap 243). GoU (Government of Uganda) Kampala: Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation

IGG. (2008) Final Report of the Third National Integrity Survey, Kampala: IGG (Inspectorate of Government)

JICA (2008) .Decentralized Service Delivery in East Africa, A Comparative Study of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Uganda Country Report, Research Group, Institute for International Cooperation, JICA(Japan International Cooperation Agency). Tokyo

Kakumba , U. (2008) External control systems of accountability in Local Governments: the case of Uganda. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Kakumba, U.( 2003) The Challenges of Personnel Decentralization and Local Government Performance in Uganda: The Case of Luwero District. Unpublished Masters dissertation, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Kiyaga-Nsubuga, J & Olum, Y. (2009) Local Governance and Local Democracy in Uganda, Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, 2, 26-43

Klitgaard, R. E. (1988) Controlling Corruption. Berkeley: University of California Press

Makara, S. (2009) Decentralization and urban governance in Uganda. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

Manyak, T.G, & Katono, I. (2010) Decentralization and Conflict in Uganda, African Studies Quarterly, 11(4), 1-24

Mentor Consult. (2008) Draft Report on Africa Local Council Oversight and Social Accountability (ALCOSA) Studying Local Council Oversight in Uganda. Available at

Mitchinson, R. (2003) Devolution in Uganda: An experiment in local service delivery. Public Administration and Development, 23(3), 241-248

Muhumuza, W. (2008). Pitfalls of Decentralization Reforms in Transitional Societies: The Case of Uganda. Africa Development, 33(4), 59-81

Nabaho, L & Kiiza, A. (2013) Human Resource Management in Local Governments: An analysis of Recruitment and Selection Practices in Uganda. Journal of African and Asian Local Government Studies, 2(2), 1-14.

Nabaho, L. (2012) Driving up Standards: Civil Service Management and Decentralization: Case Study of Uganda, Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, 11, 75-94

Nabaho, L. (2011) Managing the Civil Service in Local Governments under the Separate Personnel System: Challenges and Policy Issues. Paper presented at the 33rd African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) Annual Roundtable Conference held in Lilongwe, Malawi, from 14-18 November 2011

Nsibambi, A (ed). (2000) Decentralization in Uganda: the quest for good governance. Kampala: Fountain Publishers

Oloka-Onyango, J. (2007) Decentralization without human rights: Local governance and access to justice in post-Movement Uganda. Kampala: Human Rights and Peace Centre

Onyinge, M. (2013, March 27) LC 3 Chairpersons Lock Kaberamaido District Offices. The New Vision, pp, 8.

Parliament of Uganda. (2012) Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Health on the Ministerial Policy Statement for the Health Sector for the Financial Year 2012/2012. Available at (Accessed on 17/03/2013)

Saito, F. (2003) Decentralization and Development Partnerships .Tokyo: Springer.

Steffensen, J. (2006) Local Government Organization and Finance: Uganda, in Anwar, S. (ed.), Local Governance in Developing Countries, Washington, DC: World Bank, pp. 93-136

Steiner, S. (2006) Decentralization in Uganda: Exploring the Constraints for Poverty Reduction.GIGA Working Paper No. 31

ULGA (2005). Submission on the Constitution (amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2005, other provisions pertinent to local governments and local governments (amendment) Bill No. 8, 2005 to the parliamentary session committee on public service and local government, May, (UGLA) Uganda Local Government Association: Kampala