Local Government and You!
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)