PLEASE join me in applauding the technocrats in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development for their performance over the last couple of months – particularly as evidenced by the website budget.go.ug.
Mind you, I am not applauding them simply because of the budget reading the other day – that is just one event in the cycle, as we have discussed before.
That website has been, and continues to be, quite useful to the people who like data and take pleasure in comparing figures and text to do things such as extrapolation, or even just to use the word in conversations such as these.
The technocrats in the ministry who we ordinary members of the general public never get to see or hear about have put together their gallant efforts not just to present the voluminous document that constituted the speeches of the President and Finance Minister on Thursday, and the budget in its entirety, but this – budget.go.ug.
This tool is highly significant in the information age we live in because it practically puts the budget in our hands in a manner we, the educated elite with internet access, can make sensible use of.
You really should go over there to get the details on your own, but consider that it provides budget information going all the way back to 2003!
Unlike many government departments that have websites and rarely use them for even the most basic of functions (provide up to date information), the people that run budget.go.ug have even been interactive and respond to queries and comments that one puts into the relevant sections of the site.
You see, the true test of a functional and useful digital site is in its integration into the other arms or sections of one’s business or operation. If you type a comment into a website comment box and get back an email that contains a phone number, and then call up that phone number with an issue that is handled and you get a call back – the system works!
On budget day itself, I found a problem accessing some data and dialled a mobile phone number that I had acquired in that process, and conducted some sensible human interaction that provided information I could work with and believe – all within a matter of minutes!
Whereas it is very easy every day to issue blank statements such as “Government people don’t work” and “Government is useless”, the facts on the ground are very, very different when one interfaces with budget.go.ug.
Those who didn’t wait for the speech read out on the day of the budget reading or the headlines the day after, and who took intellectual time off to visit this website and keep track of its updates cannot have many complaints.
The site is so detailed in presentation, for instance, that one can check to see exactly how much money was released to a parish or sub-county in one of those remote districts that “we” keep joking and complaining about.
Not only that, the dashboard on the site tells you when the money was disbursed, who is responsible for it, and whether the money has been spent or not! THAT is full transparency and accountability.
Anyone with a complaint about a borehole or health centre, for instance, can go into the tool on that page to first check exactly where the problem might be before organising a demonstration or political rally.
But besides that, if you have a comment or query to make and probably don’t know your local official, you can post the comment right there into the website and have it published right away, for the ministry people to follow up on…(I think and hope).
Plus (this list can go on and on), the website also allows you to create alerts so that when updates are made to budgetary items from previous years or the current one, you get an email into your inbox or an SMS.
And, best of all, budget.go.ug promises that, “The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is working to ensure those responsible for the outputs (Commissioners, Directors and Permanent Secretaries) register to receive relevant updates and respond to your feedback.”
All these people, ladies and gentlemen, are Ugandans working for the Government of Uganda, for the good of the people of Uganda! Would that they could be lined up for the next medals being distributed…