Researching the politics of development



Overcoming the limits of institutional reform in Uganda

Working paper 27

Download pdf

Matt Andrews and Lawrence Bategeka


This paper begins by noting that Uganda has been a public sector reform leader in Africa. It has pursued reforms actively and consistently for three decades now, and has produced many laws, processes and structures that are ‘best in class’ in Africa (and beyond). The problem is that many of the reforms have been limited to these kinds of gains – producing new institutional forms that function poorly and yield limited impacts. Various kinds of data showed – in various areas (civil service and public administration, public financial management, revenue management, procurement and anti-corruption) – that laws are often not being implemented, processes are being poorly executed, and there is insufficient follow-up to make sure that new mechanisms work as intended. The paper suggests that the government should re-frame its reform agenda to address these limitations and close the gaps between what Uganda’s system looks like and how it functions. The proposed approach to doing reform in the future is called problem driven iterative adaptation (PDIA) and builds on past reform activity (rather than proposing an entirely new set of solutions). PDIA will require Ugandans to work together and own their reform processes more actively than ever, coming to terms with the problems they face and working iteratively – in broad groups – to find and fit local solutions to these problems