This Window-dressing Decentralisation is a Mockery!!!
Monday, October 24, 2011
Decentralisation is the devolving of authority and responsibility from the central government to sub-ordinate or quasi-independent government organisations. This transfer is refuired to take the form of political, administrative and fiscal.
However, it is rather baffling that nine solid years after the coming into being of the Local Government Act, which seeks for a greater transfer of political and economic power to local government authorities under the wider concept of decentralisation, the central government continue to hold firm on powers that are meant for local government authorities.
Decentralisation is far from becoming a reality in The Gambia. Instead, the whole situation is more or less a window dressing, if not infact a more centralisating of power.
For instance, most of the powers bestowed on local government authorities by the Local Government Act 2002, which was further buchered through a number of amendments, are taken away from them.
Local government institutions that are supposed to be independent and autonomous are now answerable to the regional governors. The president has also been empowered to fire an elected local government head. Where is the decentralisation or the autonomy?
Making matters worse for local government authorities is the lack of financial resources at their disposal to implement their programmes as the central government apparently usurped almost all their possible revenue base.
The geology unit at the Office of the President has taken away sanding mining from the local councils, particularly the Brikama Area Council. Cattle tax goes to the livestock agency and the car park rates also are no longer for the local government authorities.
This unjustifiable actions of the central government of course run contrary to Section 128 (2) of the Local Government Act, which stipulates in no uncertain terms that the revenue and funds of a local council shall apply to the administration, development and welfare of the inhabitants within that jurisdiction.
Besides, Section 128 (3) of the same Act mandates the central government to provide twenty five percent of the council’s development budget.
Infact section 127 of the Local Government Act guarantees the autonomy of local councils, stating that ‘every council shall have autonomy over its financial matters.
In essence therefore, The Gambia government’s claim of its commitment to empowering local government authorities only exits in theory.
Devolving power is deliberately refused because, in Gambia, like in many African countries, leaders never want to lose grip of their excessive powers and see decentralisation as threat.
What the central government should however understand is that no government in this world can effectively address the needs of its people without devolving powers to the local authority, who would then, be equally bound to deliver else be voted-out.