By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Though a marginal improvement was recorded in regional councils’ revenue collection, the matter remains a challenge. “The local authorities are trying and they are doing great. However, there still are challenges which we have to face collectively,” said the Permanent Secretary of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Erastus Negonga. This is clear proof that currently regional councils are headed by regional officers who do not necessarily understand the system. As a result, regional councils face serious financial irregularities, theft and poor management. This, according to Negonga, should not be allowed to continue. Negonga revealed that most small local authorities are struggling to collect revenue, which is the key to service delivery. Poor management of the limited financial resources at their disposal remains another area of concern as so far local authorities have proved to fail in prioritising needy areas. “There is poor management of limited resources at their disposal where priority of expenditure is not directed towards the needy areas to improve the lives of people,” he stated. The lack of skilful human resources poses another challenge at this level. Most regional councils are too junior and fail to account for the enormous financial resources. Where revenue was collected, it has been found that the money was not forwarded to the Receiver of Inland Revenue in Windhoek or that it was not accounted for. Considering the demanding administrative skills at the local council level, skills by small local authorities according to him remains a source of concern. There is always a conflict of understanding between what Negonga termed political and technical people. The ministry has embarked upon the local authority exercise as directed by Cabinet in 2002 in order to live up to the realities and challenges of post-independence Namibia. The ministry is currently looking at repealing some of the laws that are no longer compatible with the norms and standards of an independent country. However, the Permanent Secretary says though local authorities could be regarded as autonomous in their existence, they cannot operate in a vacuum. As such, the central government keeps assisting especially with the financing of development projects in different parts of the country. Negonga urged all local authorities to seek ways of generating their own income and also to attract investment to their areas.
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