Brief 48: Strengthening Local Political Accountability Through Information in Uganda

  1. The transparency initiative should start early in the electoral cycle, contrary to many other politician accountability initiatives that disseminate performance information to citizens directly prior to elections. Disseminating performance information early on motivates politicians to increase effort to deter challenger candidates’ entry and woo voters. If the initiative occurs directly too close to elections, there is no opportunity for politicians to improve performance and no opportunity for potential challenger candidates to identify poor performers and run for office to unseat them.
  2. The seat can’t be too safe. There needs to be at least some minimum level of pressure from a rival political party—in the study’s context (Uganda) at least a vote margin of 22 points, which is not a remarkably high threshold. The higher the level of competition in a constituency, however, the larger the effect of transparency.
  3. The civil society organization should be local, non-partisan, credible, and get buy-in from key stakeholders (e.g., politicians, local politician associations, and political parties). If the organization is seen to be partisan or slip-shod in the creation of a performance scorecard, politicians could derail the initiative. It is likely more feasible for civil society to introduce transparency initiatives at the subnational rather than national level. For the initiative to be sustainable and taken seriously by politicians, the local organization should not be seen as transient.
  4. Elected politicians can improve the performance of their job duties and outcomes that are under their direct control. Since, for example, public service delivery is a function of many government branches and levels, even when legislators improve job duty performance following a transparency initiative, public services may not improve in tandem. Increasing accountability of many actors may be necessary for improvements in public services to be seen.