Saturday, July 18, 2009

Civil Society and the dawn of corruption in Uganda II

In a way quality of board is determined by membership. Suffice to say some people infected with FMS are part of membership and therefore the Board. In developed countries like Uganda Boards or Executive Committees are not picked on merit.

It’s like politics… in developed countries a young man would not go for parliament because surely how can you go for parliament at the age of 30? What will you be doing after parliament? It is more like a retirement, you go after retirement. But for us here, because politics has money, you find that young people are running, leaving jobs, running to get what? So, in civil society people know that the moment I enter the board I will access money and other resources, I will access activities and therefore being on board is determined by your interests, rather than whether you can add value. You have board members who are like paupers and without any source of income. They view NGOs as a source of livelihood and eventually want to act as managers hence crushing with secretariats.

I was thinking of changing various NGO constitutions, so that membership on board is not based 'democracy' as perceived in developing countries but on invitation. The invitation would be based on value addition especially at policy level. Our current boards, have no experience and some are earning so little that they would rather take up positions in management at Secretariats. In fact the dilemma is how a person earning half of your salary or a quarter can determine your remuneration fairly. Some want to 'visit' daily and they make policies that increases their sitting allowances and with all honesty it is the only available means to make ends meet.

Therefore, there is an element of some financial gain, operational and strategic activities are taken over by Boards that are are in actual sense policy makers! And you begin crushing with the staff, if they don’t give you money for contingency… you say “I want this money”… but how can a board member be part of accountability? How can they supervise an organisation if they are part of that process? So in my opinion, how we choose them will determine what they become.

Other than having board membership on invitation and let us have even age limit education and relevant experience. I worked in civil service for about thirteen years (5 in a government corporation and 8 in Government civil service) and therefore when I retire, I can add value to the board if choosen. It is democratic values which sometimes dictate. Let us pick a board member from each region, eventually one finds that the membership is bringing people who have not steered their parent organisations to be on a Board some are workers earning less money than most staf in the NGO office.

So in a way when they discuss petty issues with petty excuses. Discussions should be beyond salaries, beyond personnel, beyond activities. Board members should find it very hard to go to the field (either because they are busy or very old to travel). They should be people who can help you to go and fund-raise, when they are in meetings there are not on their own interests. A meeting with potential donors should facilitate the NGO they represent for instance to say “oh.. I think I have this organisation, please you visit it and see… but we have board members, if they get an opportunity, they will talk about their organisation, and the NGO becomes like a periphery, it is just like a stepping stone.

So that’s the problem. Quality is not determined by expertise or experience, it is determined by how much can I get from this NGOfor even my parent organisation? I also even found that people think they will benefit more if they are on the board because they will pull more resources for their own organisation and I think that should be fought because in a way they (the Board) manipulates to ensure that their organisation gets more money and awards than others". I have just visited an NGO where out of four tenders, three were taken by the Board where they evaluated themselves- a clear case of conflict of interest. Board membership should have nothing to do with resources and or job allocation.

Are CSOs in Uganda is ready for this passage from elected board to board selected on the base of their knowledge?

In my view they are not yet ready, it is very far away. Because even the people to change the constitution are the same. What I mean, you look at membership which doesn’t want nominated people, because they want to be nominated. So they are the ones to change the law… so in a way I think we have a very long way to go, but it’s the only way to go. Because if we don’t, the spirit of NGOs will actually collapse, very many will collapse because of poor management. When the NRM government became the one to change the change our Constitution there was a problem- because the desire to change it for personal benefit was more than the will to retain the article especially on term limits. The quandary for NRM Parliament is similar to that of Boards and Founder members: Can you change for the sake of the common good or personal interests still over ride the desire for a better future?

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