In an exclusive interview with The Standard yesterday Conteh, who is also the founder and senior partner at Governance and Development Management Services, explained: “The financing of development programmes and flexible service delivery by councils is ensured by tax revenues. The local rate is determined by the individual local authority based on a government issued flat rate levy of (001) source (DLG). This is very modest even by African standards and local tax revenue has been the major source of local government financing, current figures are not available for the municipal/local average tax rate but my guess is that it yields nearly three-quarters of the total cost of local sector investments by councils.
“Without an efficient and accountable control over these limited tax resources, councils’ position as partners in poverty alleviation, provision of social infrastructure, healthcare, education, security, transport and local services etc will be compromised. Local tax is the vital life-blood of local democracies. When judiciously and accountably utilised it improves the implementation and sustainability of projects, leads to efficient allocation of resources by closing information gaps between local communities and the central actor and harmonises central and local government actions to the best interest of citizens.
“More recently as a result of changes in the global order, the collapse of the socialist world system, the transition of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union from command economies to market economies have triggered new patterns of national and global governance which accommodate the rise of people’s aspirations. This new pattern envisages widespread participation, embracing every aspect of development including reforming of markets and offering everyone access to their benefits.”
He added: “Under Gambian law, fiscal decentralisation involves the sharing of revenue sources between the central and local governments, the sources having been categorised into two components, that is, central and local government revenues… In the local government Act 2002, this is anticipated as sufficient fiscal decentralisation for local governments to undertake economic and social development activities in their respective areas without having to refer back to the centre…
“Without a more comprehensive policy statement on the background of the Executive Directive, we can only as concerned citizens assume that this was not an easy decision for government. Probably a serious case of inefficiency, poor implementation performance and inadequate accountability measures in local financing arrangements have been called into question. Whatever the situation we should hope that it’s only a temporal measure and the concerns, (whatever they are) have not triggered a policy back pedal to the dark era of detailed regulations and inefficient top-down system of local governance inherited from the First Republic.”
Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with The Standard on the sidelines of the validation workshop of the his ministry’s strategic and action plan 2015 to 2019, Momodou Aki Bayo, minister of Lands and Regional Governments had, highlighted the depleting revenues of the area councils as well as the human resource challenges they face.
He said: “When it comes to local governance, you understand that is very easy to criticise the Area Councils but we want to ensure that in the shortest possible time, not later than 2016, the Area Councils are strengthened in terms of resource mobilisation and manpower. The area councils have serious deficiency at the level of manpower and resources…If we want to have a high calibre of professionals in the area councils, it goes without saying that their take-home pay must commensurate to their qualification and what they are expected to do.
“The area councils have nothing less than thirty responsibilities covering all sectors. Unfortunately their resource base is very limited indeed and even that resource base has been eroded upon by other institutions making the Area Councils as weak as possible, financially. So we must improve our performance as far as Area Councils are concerned and within the ministry…This may be surprising though but some Area Councils have implemented projects which amount to millions of dalasi in the last two years. The records are there and in the appropriate time and place, I will have these records available so that people understand the performance of area councils. I am not saying there are no weaknesses but those weaknesses are challenges that everyone in the ministry must work in unison to turn into opportunities.”]]>