Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) has commended President Edgar Lungu for stating that he will not interfere in the operations of the councils.
The ZCSD said this is a positive indicator towards political will in supporting and deepening of the Decentralisation reforms in Zambia.
In the past, councils have been frustrated by government’s interference in the collection of levies that were effectively introduced as a means of broadening local revenue base. The President named crop and bicycle taxes as an example of the levies that were cancelled by central government.
The ZCSD finds the President’s commitment not to interfere in the operations of councils to be very commendable considering that financial transfers from central government to local authorities are not only inadequate but also unpredictable and untimely.
The ZCSD acknowledges that decentralisation is not only a question of transferring functions to the different levels of local government but it is also about the extent to which local governments are empowered to raise the revenue level of local taxes, licenses and levies. A greater degree of revenue autonomy on the part of local authorities may positively contribute to pro-poor outcomes.
ZCSD noted that own-source revenues are usually important sources of discretionary expenditure for local governments. Therefore, this will permit the local authorities to respond effectively to local needs and priorities, thus accruing the “allocative efficiencies” of resources that decentralisation is supposed to bring about.
ZCSD said it’s their sincere hope and belief that this commitment points towards commitment to create an enabling environment for local authorities to take up their developmental role. Successful fiscal decentralisation requires a meaningful dialogue between local and central governments, an appropriate set of legal and institutional arrangements for local government local revenue management, service delivery and a system of incentives.
For this commitment by the president to function properly, there is need to squash the office of the district commissioner which has been playing a conflicting role at local authority levels as Town Clerks and District Secretaries have been rendered irrelevant. The abolishment of this office will not only allow Local Authorities and other government departments at district level to operate independently and professionally but will also save public resources which would be channeled to poverty reduction programmes. Maintaining the office the district commissioners is an affront to decentralisation reform processes.
By Lewis Mwape