Local Authorities Warned to Shape Up By Hoab !Gaeb MARIENTAL Local authorities in the Hardap Region have been told to apply austere financial discipline and to stop mismanagement of public funds – or face tougher punitive measures against them in future. This stern warning came from the Governor of the Hardap Region, Katrina Hanse. She was addressing a joint meeting of all municipalities and village councils in the region last week in the wake of recent electricity cut-offs at Gibeon, Kalkrand and MaltahÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¶he. MaltahÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¶he and Kalkrand managed to pay some of their outstanding debts, and power supply was reconnected to the two towns. However, Gibeon is unable to pay its dues and has been without electricity for almost two weeks now. Hanse told the meeting that the village councils and municipalities affected must set workable methods and strategies that would enable local authorities and regional councils to deliver basic services to their communities on a cost-recovery basis. “It is important for us to cope with the ever increasing inflationary economic conditions in the country,” she said. The Governor noted that she was extremely disappointed with the current state of affairs in most of the local authorities in her area of responsibility. She singled out as the main problems a lack of political will, poor resource mobilization, lack of capacity in financial affairs and human resources management and poor consultation and communication between stakeholders. Hanse said the notion that central government should spearhead development initiatives at local level is wrong and cannot be entertained. The overall aims and objectives of embarking on the process of decentralization are based on the assumption that when people are allowed to manage their own resources, there will be less wastage and people affected will be more responsible. The Governor further said that in order to provide basic services to a given society and to pay salaries to their staff, local authorities must have a sound financial base. “However, it has become evident through the recent and ongoing cut-off of electricity supply that one of the primary challenges faced by the local authorities is their inability to raise sufficient revenue from their local sources. Debt collection from recipients of services is not given proper attention,” she said. Mobilisation and increasing revenue collection are significant under decentralization, especially in the case of local authorities where financial self-reliance would enable authorities to take greater responsibility for the governance of their affairs. She said she was aware of the dependency syndrome in terms of which people expect the central government to provide all. However, she said the success of local authorities depends on strengthening revenue generation capacity. The Governor also accused some authorities of corrupt practices, such as unauthorised loans by officials, non-banking of revenue collected, theft and other fraudulent activities. “This sort of behaviour will cause unavoidable limitations in financial assistance from central government.” She stated that it was evident that some local authorities are totally mismanaged. Council meetings are no longer taken seriously, councillors are divided, staff meetings are ignored and staff recruitment is done along tribal or racial lines. She finally advised the local authorities to develop local tax bases, institute and enhance sound financial reporting, and identify training programmes for accountants to recruit and train revenue collectors without delay. Meanwhile, all efforts are being done to restore electricity supply to Gibeon, which could result in a humanitarian crisis if not addressed timeously. The town owes NamPower more than N$200 000.
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