I served a local CSO named Democracy Monitoring Group (DEMGroup) for a short time as a Director, I exited on a short notice mainly because of the following:
1. In the MoU the following are the DEMGroup's expected outputs:
• An established structure which reflects the interests and concerns of all DEMGroup members and servers the mission of promoting and consolidating good governance and democracy in Uganda by monitoring key indicators of democracy, popularizing the findings and influencing options towards good governance.
• Regular activities and reports produced for respective members of DEMGroup, the donor community, and concerned stakeholders, e.g. Parliament, Political Parties, police, courts, other civil society actors, and the media on the strengths, weaknesses and the emerging trends in the progress toward democratic consolidation in Uganda.
• Regular consultative meetings with representatives of monitored groups and institutions.
• Strengthened capacity of the four DEMGroup members to be conversant with the requisites of democracy and democratic reform progresses and institution building
• Detailed information about democratic institutions and processes that can be used for electoral and governance reforms and civic education.
• In-depth information about trend and the impact of corruption on the democratization process.
• Materials for monitoring including training curricula materials; manuals, data collection and reporting forms formulated and produced.
• Improved media coverage of good governance issues eg. Gender accountability and human rights.
• Increased citizen awareness of the monitored issues, policies, procedures and practices with the different institutions supposed to foster democratic governance.
Comment: The activities are very good and are in line with the spirit of formation of DEMGroup. However the current structure does not reflect the above as well as other challenges in operations. Many of the activities are going to be hampered by failure to constructively engage.
2. On the operational structure of the group
According to the proposal , DEMGroup was supposed to organize itself in a manner that would deliver the above outputs. As the activities of DEMGroup will vary, the Board may elect to create suitable sub-structures to carry out particular tasks. The subs-structures were to be defined in appendices to this Memorandum but they are not there.
Comment 2: This has never been done and instead the Board has mainly concentrated on what can be done rather than what ought to be done and by whom. It was unfortunate for Board and Project decisions to be changed without adequate consultations and reference to project documents. The decisions as of now, are not in tandem with the project proposal, MoU and other DEMGroup key guidelines. There is need for serious review and amendments to reflect the current situation as well as roles and responsibilities of the Board/ Partner Organisations and the Secretariat.
If there is decentralisation then it should be made clear. Still in case where the Board feels to retain powers ranging from financial management, procurements and recruitment let this also come out clearly so that whoever is in charge knows the limits and levels of decision making. While the current situation of consulting seems to be working, at a level where there are serious activities like during the voting period, this will not be possible.
3. Financial Management
Each organization was to develop a budget for implementation of all the activities within its agency. All budgets for activities conducted under the auspices of DEMGroup would be shared with the Board. There has been a discussion regarding how finances in DEMGroup are to be managed. I wish to re-state the fact that financial management is on cash basis and challenges of accounting for three budgets are just a reflection of the absurdity of failure to follow guidelines in project documents or making decisions without consulting.
The only luck is that the bigger cost is for personnel are within partner organisations but still it will remain difficult at a full deployment level to have personnel whose emoluments will be remitted from different organisations. Already because of delays from some organisations the reporting levels are not the same for just 22 regions. Operational funds have in some cases been paid after the activity. If the Board cannot find the best way of operating this fund it will be very stressful for this project to succeed.
Related to the above there should be operational policies that guide the Secretariat. For example items like mileage, per-diem, and day allowance are though budgeted for not clearly put and sometimes the Secretariat guesses on how much to pay. Policy documents including on communication earlier developed should be approved and operationalized.
In my view, I think currently many organisations would wish to remain as decision makers within DEMGroup. That would be fine if it is made clear. Consultations with donors and other stakeholders should be at ‘the last resort’’. I have found that (with all due respect to the partner organisations) DEMGroup is kind of driven by ‘the donor has said syndrome’. One of the issues we need to know is that this is a local observation organisation and as it welcomes the technical support it should ensure that local capacities are built. Different interests are at play but the Group has the sole responsibility to ensure free and fair elections within Uganda. Again decision levels and what can be decided upon ón consultation’ with donors should be made clear in the policies.
5. Partner Organisations
Either through design or deliberate action, Partner Organisations have been largely unreliable. Promises (even simple ones to nominate for example a Board member) remain unfulfilled and sometimes as the discussion continues and the goal posts shift, I would wonder whether it was deliberate or just sheer incompetency. Commitment from say Board members should never be put to question or be part of the Group’s future deliberation. The Board owns, controls and can access resources to ensure success.
Finally let me re-state that there is a high likelihood that I misinterpreted the structure and therefore the operations of DEMGroup. To that extent I’m guilt as accused and therefore responsible for all failed activities. For those that succeeded I wish to thank all of you for the input and I will remain grateful especially for the opportunity given and the lessons I have personally learnt that will help me in my future endeavours. Once again my going is due to personal exigency of service and I wish DEMGroup all the best. As stated earlier in my communication this venture is for all of us and I will be glad to help in future when called upon.