Lo­cal Govern­ment and You!

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the March 2016 Lo­cal Govern­ment Elec­tions con­firmed a ma­jor­ity lack of con­fi­dence in the Coali­tion Govern­ment, the touted un­ful­filled im­prove­ment in lo­cal gov­er­nance mat­ters have be­come the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic in the re­la­tion­ship with cit­i­zens of most Lo­cal Govern­ment ar­eas. The strate­gies em­ployed by the Granger-led govern­ment have been in­creas­ingly trou­bling and con­trary to the in­tent of the Con­sti­tu­tion and other sup­port­ive leg­is­la­tion.

Many com­mu­nity con­sti­tu­tional struc­tures are now even more strongly chal­lenged to pro­vide the re­quired ser­vices; while the func­tion of be­ing agents fa­cil­i­ta­tive of de­vel­op­ment has van­ished be­yond the hori­zon. APNU/AFC and their agents are em­ploy­ing dan­ger­ous check­ered gam­bits, which se­lec­tively and un­sup­port­ively tar­get NDCs and Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties where the lead­er­ship is per­ceived to be non-sup­port­ive of some of the Coali­tion’s poli­cies.

The gen­eral pub­lic has wit­nessed the many failed ap­proaches to sen­si­tize or bal­ance in­ter­est across com­mu­ni­ties that they are re­ally se­ri­ous of ad­vanc­ing pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment ef­forts. The cre­ation of ex­pen­sive far­ci­cal work­shops such as the Na­tional Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Con­sul­ta­tive Com­mit­tee (NRDCC) rather than es­tab­lish the de­lib­er­ately de­layed Lo­cal Govern­ment Com­mis­sion runs counter to these ideals.

At­tempts to im­pose an ap­proach de­void of ev­ery grain of de­cency have been the clear sig­nal. It dic­tates that ‘what­ever hap­pens in your area is of your own mak­ing if you do not re­spond the way we di­rect’. There has also been marked in­creases in the preva­lence of at­tempts tar­geted at em­bar­rass­ing and in­sult­ing the hun­dreds of elected Neigh­bour­hood Demo­cratic Coun­cilors, which also in­sults the in­tel­li­gence of re­sid­ing cit­i­zens in gen­eral.

The re­cent in­volve­ment of the Min­istry of So­cial Co­he­sion, which pri­mar­ily func­tions as the po­lit­i­cal arm of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Congress, is yet an­other at­tempt at a new gam­bit. In the sim­plest of terms, the Min­istry has em­barked on invit­ing the elected coun­cilors to lec­ture them on pol­i­tics. The coun­cil­lors, on the other hand, have not been turn­ing-up to lis­ten to the po­lit­i­cal ‘gib­ber­ish, while their coun­cils are be­ing held at ran­som.’

The PPP/ C Coun­cilors are known to be most co­op­er­a­tive in all re­spect to the au­thor­i­ties, but they jus­ti­fi­ably will not al­low any APNU/AFC mem­ber to in­flu­ence them with the pur­ported cam­ou­flaged agen­das. Notably, there has been an out­cry from the APNU/ AFC’s camp through claims that PPP/C Coun­cilors are de­lib­er­ately not sup­port­ive. These should and must be clas­si­fied as out­right rub­bish for sev­eral rea­sons. A few will be dealt with here­after to pro­vide clar­ity.

It can­not be de­nied that PPP/C Coun­cilors, par­tic­u­larly the Chair­men in the three-tie Lo­cal Au­thor­ity Ar­eas are very sup­port­ive, al­though they are not re­ceiv­ing the sup­port from the Ad­min­is­tra­tion. It is known that Min­is­ter Bulkan con­cocted an ap­proach to these ar­eas to force the Op­po­si­tion to seek le­gal in­ter­ven­tion as a de­lay­ing mech­a­nism, in­stead us­ing the bi-elec­tions man­dated in the ap­pli­ca­ble leg­is­la­tion. Yet, they are sign­ing all nec­es­sary doc­u­ments and ap­prov­ing fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the smooth run­ning of all the of­fices in the in­ter­est of cit­i­zens is just one ex­am­ple.

At the same time, the coun­cils are be­ing frus­trated be­yond ac­cept­abil­ity to get timely ap­provals for projects that ben­e­fits their con­stituen­cies. The ‘royal run around’ and the most bu­reau­cratic red tapes are be­ing in­voked at the re­gional and min­istry lev­els. Ad­di­tion­ally, there is much ev­i­dence that many of the re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tion lacks the tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity to prop­erly pre­pare in­stru­ments to sup­port cap­i­tal works such as Bills of Quan­ti­ties. Yet NDCs are made to await the sub­stan­dard prepa­ra­tion by the re­gional en­gi­neers, which of­ten­times re­sults in sig­nif­i­cant vari­ances from planned ex­pen­di­tures.

It must be rec­og­nized at all lev­els that the Chair­men of the NDCs are elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple for the peo­ple. Hence, the politi­cians must not try to co­erce them to do their dirty po­lit­i­cal work. Af­ter the re­peated fail­ures of at­tempts to un­der­mine con­struc­tive ap­proaches by Bulkan, it is clear that the Min­istry of So­cial Co­he­sion now at­tempts to fill the void.

How­ever, its man­date is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent to the es­tab­lish­ment of ap­pro­pri­ate Lo­cal Govern­ment pil­lars. Hence, the APNU/AFC must be forth­right and truth­ful to our cit­i­zens. Oth­er­wise, the at­tempts to hold sev­eral sem­i­nars in the Lo­cal Au­thor­ity ar­eas with sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial help from some per­ma­nent in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the UNDP will con­tinue to be fu­tile and waste of money.

It is im­per­a­tive that the ad­min­is­tra­tion be more con­sul­ta­tive. The ap­proach to con­sul­ta­tions should stem from a gen­uine mis­sion of in­tent to work to­gether. Presently, the NDCs and RDCs are sup­posed to be hav­ing dis­cus­sion and con­sul­ta­tion to pre­pare the 2018 bud­get. How­ever, it is clear that the Govern­ment of the day is try­ing to divide and rule; they are get­ting peo­ple to sign on to pro­pos­als with­out gen­uine dis­cus­sions and in­volve­ment of a more rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of the peo­ple in the con­sul­ta­tions.

In­stead, the Govern­ment is prov­ing to be so dic­ta­to­rial that they want the peo­ple’s elected of­fi­cials go to their Fi­nance Min­is­ter to make deals. Most of the sub­ven­tions for this year are yet to be re­leased and many Lo­cal Au­thor­ity ar­eas will find it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to spend the sub­ven­tions be­fore the end of the year.

The Govern­ment must ap­point the Lo­cal Govern­ment Com­mis­sion now. Fur­ther, the Pres­i­dent must also stop wast­ing time and ap­point the Chair­man of the Elec­tions Com­mis­sion now. While we had Lo­cal Govern­ment Elec­tions in 2016, there re­main nu­mer­ous un­solved prob­lems and is­sues to deal with by the Elec­tions Com­mis­sion as an au­ton­o­mous body. The re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are broad rang­ing and should not be rushed since they de­mand com­pre­hen­sive prepa­ra­tion. Ex­am­ples in­clude a new and proper Reg­is­ter of Reg­is­trants. We must work to­gether to get all our peo­ple reg­is­tered at the place where they are liv­ing.

(This ar­ti­cle is pre­pared by Neil Ku­mar along with Mr. A and Mr. S)

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