Decentralisation Gains Momentum: Prospects and Challenges

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By Clemens H. Kashuupulwa

Oshana Regional Council welcomes the decision taken by the government to decentralize close to 10 functions in various line ministries to regional councils with effect from the 2008/2009 financial year. This would bring the number of functions to be decentralized to the regions to 12 since 2005.

The first function to be decentralized was primary and secondary education in 2005, followed by rural supply that was decentralized also on a delegated basis as per Cabinet decision on August 1, 2007.

In November 2007 Cabinet resolved that the function of “Maintenance of Governments Buildings” in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication should be decentralized to the regions after the mother ministry indicated its readiness thereof.

Other government functions will be drawn from various ministries such as primary health care, early childhood development, management of conservancies, information and broadcasting, labour and social services, management of communal lands and settlement areas, housing and management of forestry.

Decentralization of functions to the regions is being implemented “to promote participatory democracy and to empower local populations to make their own decisions and improve public sector management”. It is done through “the transfer of administrative, financial and planning authority from the central government to regional councils on a delegated basis as regional councils still need capacity and institutional building to manage better the agreed functions in their respective regions”.

The Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication recently organized workshops to enlighten members of regional councils about the role and mandate of the Division of Maintenance and Management Asset as well as its strategies and objectives that are contained in a Plan of Action of the ministry.

Participants from Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Karas, Omaheke, Hardap, Caprivi, Kavango, Khomas and Kunene attended the consultative workshop on the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication’s Decentralization of Functions of the Directorate of Maintenance and Management of Regional Assets “to deliver the services closer to the customer, as well as to establish the appropriate links to the Office of the Regional Governor”, in Tsumeb.

The existing administrative component of the Division of Maintenance and Assets Management structure “will slot in smoothly” with the already approved structure of the regional councils and will resort under the Directorate of Planning and Development Services.

Decentralization is an expensive exercise. Under the Division of Maintenance and Assets Management, staff establishment structure is only in some regions that were decentralized on a de-concentration basis. This means staff members have been in the regions under the administration of the mother ministries controlled from Windhoek.

Under delegated functions, the function of the Division of Maintenance and Management Assets currently being performed by the regional offices of the MWTC will be decentralized to the regions with its staff and budget, while “the Head Office staff establishment will remain in the headquarters in the regions to perform duties within the Ministries and to monitor functions delegated to the regional councils under the phase of delegation as per the Decentralization Implementation Plan and supporting Decentralization Enabling Act of the Government”.

Decentralization Enabling Act 2000, [Act No. 33 of 2000] empowers Regional and Local Authority Councils to enter into business joint ventures with potential business people by means of “acquisition of shares in a company registered or to be registered in terms of the Companies Act 1973 [Act Mp 61 of 1973]”.

By law, regional and local authority councils as approved by the minister can also “render, exercise or carry out the service, duty or functions to enable a registered company” to render, exercise or carry out the service duty or function” to a potential company that enters into business joint venture with regional and local councils.

This is necessary for regional councils in particular to have its own income revenue base collection to supplement the provision of the central government subsidies on regional councils development projects.

The Maintenance and Management Assets Division is a huge component within the MWTC. It involves almost the entire government buildings and infrastructure of almost all ministries at regional level.

These include maintenance and repair of government buildings, related infrastructure, rehabilitation and renovation and upgrading of government buildings and infrastructure, tender document preparations, evaluations, recommendation of tenders, allocating works to contractors and authorization of payments to tenders as well as managing service contracts.

However, in each region, the ministry has already budgeted for remuneration, GIPF, subsistence traveling allowance, material supplies, transport and maintenance expenditure of 2007/2008-2009/2010.

In some regions such as Oshana, Khomas, Erongo, Otjozondjupa, Omaheke, Caprivi, Kavango and Karas, staff are there already, whereas in other regions such administrative staff will soon be recruited.

It is a complicated exercise in terms of transferring staff and recruitment as some staff may not be ready to go to certain regions because of accommodation problems and possible separation from their families. The government will look into these issues so as to avoid inconveniences among many staff while it makes sure that the process of decentralization is on track.

Oshana Regional Council has already indicated its readiness to absorb all required staff of the Division of Maintenance and Assets Management as most of these staff members are already in the region.

However, the region has also indicated its readiness for the MWTC also to decentralize the functions of management of the government garage and fuel depots. Currently, the council’s fleet is serviced, repaired and gets fuel from the private sector while the government garage and fuel depots are in the region but no longer rendering these services after we learned of their poor service.

The main challenge with the government garage and fuel depots is lack of effective management and availability of spare parts on time and above all, everything to be run on business principles. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with the government to have its garage and fuel depots decentralized as these need only to be managed on business principles.

Oshana Regional Council is now satisfied with the central government’s implementation of decentralization of the agreed functions to the region. The empowerment of staff under the approved regional councils structure is also in place.

With budgeting allocation gradually considered within the realm of our financial allocation and capacity building of the staff to deliver the required services to our people, regional councils can assure continuity in service delivery to the people.

We will continue to mobilize all the incoming staff under the council, to eliminate the fear of the unknown within some administrative staff who might have been misinformed. What is important at regional level is the fact that people need better service delivery and full participation on matters pertaining to the development of the regions.

It is high time for staff members at regional level to be aware where the regions are heading to in their development agenda towards the implementation of all development projects as initiated by the regional councils.

They must also be in a position to explain to the customers their role in whatever positions they find themselves in relation to the mandate or job allocation provided to them. These are part and parcel of the administrative duties the councils require for a common goal.

Administrative staff members in any institution are catalysts for change in the development process of institutions as they are responsible for the implementation of the decisions of the councils.

Thus, successful service delivery to the people at regional level under decentralization of functions to the regions is central to the commitment and hard work of the administrative staff members who are charged with the implementation of the decisions of the councils. The provision of competent and skilled human resources is in itself thus the empowerment of regional councils to take sound decisions and subsequently implement these decisions as deemed feasible and viable for implementation.

The main challenge under decentralization of functions to the regions, if meaningful change to outcome driven is to be guaranteed, is that decentralization must be implemented “lock, stock and barrel” [staff and fund].

These human and material resources if managed accordingly can enhance efficiency and consistency in goods and services deliveries and thereby make regional councils effective to initiate change to improve the living standards of the people.

Thus the determining factor in bringing the government closer to the people is to empower regional councils with competent staff and financial resources to deliver goods and better services to the people.

– Clemens H. Kashuupulwa is the Governor of Oshana Region.

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