Local Authorities Unravel Challenges

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The mismanagement and misappropriation of public resources is one of the biggest headaches for local government administration in the country and should be solved as a matter of urgency. This serious warning was levelled at all local authorities under the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development by the Permanent Secretary, Erastus Negonga. He was the keynote speaker at the 6th annual general meeting of the Namibia Association of Local Authorities Officers (NALAO) in the capital. Representatives from around the country attended the meeting under the theme, “Facing the Local Government Challenges Together”. “It has become inevitable to transform the country’s local government sector due to the many challenges being faced 16 years after Independence. We have to create democratic local authorities where all citizens can participate in their own affairs and proclaim more local authorities in rural areas to address existing imbalances,” Negonga said. He expressed his delight at the goals of the national body to maintain ethical and professional standards for local government administration. “NALAO should address the challenges to ensure efficient service delivery and sustainability. Some of these challenges include lack of human resources development strategies, poor working relationships among officials, inadequate revenue bases, a lack of understanding of the roles of appointed officials, poor public service delivery, a lack of public participation and the absence of standards and uniformed conditions of service, warrant reform by all of us,” the PS identified the multiple problems the sector faces. Other problems that negatively affect the sector include the existence of dilapidated capital infrastructures, poverty and unemployment of residents to afford service fee payments, informal settlements without basic services and old dispensation organizational structures still in operation. “Until Independence black people were not involved in running local authorities. They were balkanised in the homelands and the urban areas were reserved for whites. Urban infrastructures were constructed for the small white sector in the community whereas the black townships were provided with sub-standard infrastructures. This is the situation we inherited when we took over the sector at Independence,” Negonga said. According to Negonga, the primary challenges included dismantling the then apartheid structures in order to integrate the townships and the “towns” proper to form one single local authority. “This process would benefit from a bottoms-up approach relying on members’ practical experiences and further be informed by the aspirations of all communities. Therefore, let us eliminate those factors that divide and make us lose focus and build on those that unite us for the common cause. Local authorities should take a lead in good governance, transparency, accountability and high responsiveness in service delivery,” Negonga urged. A welcoming message read on behalf of the Mayor of Windhoek Mathew Shikongo recognised NALAO as the ideal platform for the implementation of practical solutions required for sustainable development. “As a platform of technocrats NALAO should provide strategic direction and concrete proposals on how to deal with challenges within the local authority sector. The body should also aim at developing and strengthening the much needed capacities in local government administration,” said Shikongo.