|Article by Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Pictures by Morgan Mbabazi
Published August 22, 2007
The National Documentation Centre of Uganda (NDC), that is meant to act as a one-stop shop for all documents published in the Pearl of Africa nation whose motto is “For God and my Country” is hardly playing its legal role due to obsolete laws, lack of independence and budgetary constraints. BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI reports.
Though the NDC is supposed to receive free copies of all books published in Uganda, few publishers care to adhere to this as the agency lacks the teeth for biting offenders.
For instance the punitive measure of USh100 (57 US Cents) fine as result of a publisher failing to deposit a document at NDC is too light that it may encourage non-compliance.
“Preposterous as it appears, it has contributed significantly to negative response of publishers towards legal deposit,” Elizabeth Lwanga, senior librarian and head library and documentation department at UMI told ArtMatters.Info in Kampala. “Publishers find it cheaper to pay the fine as compared to the depositing a costly document at NDC.”
Lwanga says, “Most people are willing to deposit only when an offer goes to their premises. They are not willing to incur expenses as a result of taking the documents to the deposit library. Although we lament the vicious cycle of inadequate collection, we also lament the persistent refusal by some organisations and people to deposit even when approached.”
The Act also fails to include other sources of publication such as audio tapes, CD and DVD, restricting itself to printed material.
Henry Akra Ayias, a librarian at UMI, says the biggest limitation to NDC is a weak law. “The Act doesn’t comply with international standards because there are no provisions for the structure, sources of finance and enforcement of the services of NDC.”
Like in other countries, Ayias says, NDC has to be fully independent with its own departments and resources to function optimally.
Currently, NDC is dependent on UMI as the central government that set it up does not allocate any money to it.
NDC is housed in a 500-square-foot room and lacks modern storage and archival facilities despite the growing number of documents and users.
In the field survey preceding the formulation of the White Paper on Communication and Information conducted in 2000, it was found that libraries, archives and documentation centres which are supposed to keep records of various events in Uganda were ill-equipped, were located only in towns and their approach was purely academic.
The Survey further found that although there is legislation in place requiring authors to deposit a copy of their publications with NDC, this had not been enforced resulting in the scarcity of reference documents.
NDC was set up by The Deposit Library and Documentation Center Act of 1969 that provided for the deposit of copies of documents written by a Ugandan or about Uganda, or printed and published in Uganda at the Uganda Management Institute (UMI), formerly the Institute of Public Administration (IPA). These documents are then processed and preserved for use by the public.
Among other responsibilities, the law requires NDC to collect or receive depository copies of books and other published material and process them for storage in a retrievable manner and to prepare documentation tools for dissemination of information.
In the 1970s the main activities NDC were concentrated on gathering government documents from various issuing bodies and its major projects included the abstracting and indexing of district team or planning committee minutes and select government documents, and the compilation of bibliographies on Public Administration.
Despite the shortcomings the depository has managed to compile annual accession bulletins, provide information for decision-makers, researchers and policy-makers, and students. The NDC now boasts 8,000 documents that are uniquely related to Uganda. The collection consists of copies of bound newspapers from 1972, district minutes and reports from 1960s, some Uganda Protectorate Government documents, ministerial policy documents, Parliamentary debates and Hansard reports, local government and de-centralisation documents, minutes of local councils, dissertations for UMI participants, staff and some members of the public who deposited copies, Auditor General reports, some conference papers, financial reports and statistical reports, and several monographs about Uganda, among others. But NDC, if empowered, can do better.