William J. Mbangula OSHAKATI The operational functions of the Ongwediva Rural Development Centre (RDC) were transferred to the Oshana Regional Council on Tuesday, April 11. Handing over the centre to the Governor of Oshana Clemens Kashuupulwa, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Erastus Negonga said the arrangement was in line with the decentralisation process in order to encourage mass participation of rural people in the affairs of the rural development centres. Other centres to be transferred are at Okashana in the Oshikoto Region and Ben Hur in the Omaheke Region. “The process of transferring these centres to the regions has started in earnest and we are convinced that due to proximity, these centres will be better served and guided through the regional councils rather than through the remote control type of arrangement at the central level in Windhoek.,” said Negonga. In addition, Negonga pointed out that the existing steering committees for the centres, which provide policy directives in which the regional councils are also represented, will remain in place until otherwise decided. This is necessary to ensure continuity and consistency during the transitional period. Moreover, the permanent secretary added, his ministry is looking forward to see a balancing role of the regional councils in ensuring that these centres continue to serve the national interests and needs while retaining local focus and providing local technological solutions to the rural population. In his view, rural development centres should have a mission which is to be centres of excellence in rural development, research and capacity building, namely, being think tanks for rural development. He outlined the vision of such centres as to be the leaders in rural development technology, to apply solutions in small and medium enterprises and narrowing the gap between conventional and rural products tailor made to serve the destitute, poor and elderly people in the community at affordable prices. As a way to achieve their goals, the permanent secretary stressed that such centres have specific tasks, amongst others, to: – Steer and manage the centres on sound business principles complying with norms and standards in the public service and private sector of the Namibian economy; – Conduct intensive research and development of tailor-made products among different types of rural people; – Impart engineering skills to young people for innovation in order to enhance rural development functions; – Promote participation of rural communities in the designing, planning and rendering of solutions for rural development strategies aimed at poverty reduction and capacity building; – Monthly report by the managing agency (which is Komeho Namibia in the case of Ongwediva) to the regional councils and quarterly to the line ministry; – Enforce financial control and put in place the procurement system acceptable in the public service; – Process payments by the managing agencies based on claims of invoices should not continue but direct procurement by the centres and placing assets on their stock control should be the rule of thumb; and, – The trading account should comply with acceptable accounting standards. Movements between tradable business and development projects of financial capital would not enforce prudent financial control. The financial control should rather be based on the budget system. Audited financial statements for the year 20056 and the subsequent years need to be prepared and submitted. This is necessary because internal auditors will on a regular basis pass their accounting systems. Accepting the transfer of the centre on behalf of the Oshana Regional Council, Governor Kashuupulwa described the occasion as yet another important milestone in the implementation process of the government policy of decentralisation of functions to the regions. “The transfer of functional responsibility of the Ongwediva Rural Development Centre to the Oshana Regional Council is highly welcomed because of its role to empower rural communities with appropriate technologies that range from the lining of hand-dug wells to the manual drawing of water from hand-dug wells, solar stoves, cabin toilets, slab toilets, wire mesh, concrete troughs and dams.” It is also important, the governor noted, for the manufacturing of hammer mills of cereal, grain, technology for processing marula juice and oil, threshing of millet and sorghum and that of boiling water, baking bread and cooking food as well as storage of cereal crops. “I wish to pledge our commitment, hard work and team work to utilize this centre for the benefit of rural communities more than ever before. We shall in all our abilities and capabilities endeavour to plan and manage this centre to contribute to the social and economic development of the rural people,” said the governor. Ongwediva Rural Development Centre was established in June 1988 with the primary objective to give “new impetus to, and provide the focal point for rural development” in northern Namibia. Currently it comprises of four departments, namely: Appropriate Technology, Hospitality, Outreach and Administrative, with 30 employees under its care. On December 12, 2005 the Ongwediva RDC centre was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to that of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development. Presently it is being run on an agency basis by Komeho Namibia, an NGO which specialises in management and capacity building of rural communities.