The one-year term of office for mayors, deputy mayors and management committee members is too short for the effective implementation of policies and projects and for efficient service delivery, says the president of the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN), Katrina Shimbulu.
Shimbulu, who serves as mayor of Oshakati, was speaking during her meeting at Khorixas with mayors, deputy mayors and some members of management committees from Opuwo, Kamanjab, Outjo and Khorixas, where she discussed a number of pertinent issues related to local authority structures.
It was said that a mayor – although the principal head of the municipality or town – is only an ex-officio member of the management committee with no voting powers, while the duties imposed on the mayor with regard to development planning, job creation and providing social welfare requires a full-time mayor.
According to Shimbulu, local authority councillors must contend with the non-recognition of their roles as part of the national political office-bearers. They, for example, have no pension fund, or retirement benefit provided by the Public Office-Bearers (Remuneration and Benefits) Commission.
Many or most local government councillors are employees elsewhere and therefore cannot devote all their time and service to the community and municipal business and hence are obliged to sacrifice their private employment leave days to attend to council business.
The heavy workload of the management committee in some cases requires fulltime office-bearers. It was said that work hours for some mayors and chairpersons of village councils are not conducive for good governance and do not allow for proper community participation, she was informed. Simbulu said local government is part of the overall governance structure and is perceived as the level of governance closest to the people, with the primary task of ensuring the delivery of services at grassroots level.
ALAN thus recommended the fast-tracking of the local government reform process – which will need Cabinet approval – to arrive at a local government system that fulfills the needs of local communities.
It was said that the current economic difficulties of the country and the recent halting of major tenders do not augur well for local authorities that serve as a platform by means of which people can gauge government performance.
It is the wish though of local authority leaders that ALAN should persistently fight for the implementation of its position paper so as to address these challenges. The policy seeks to align local government personnel systems with that of the public service, as well as create compatible systems of remuneration, as well as fringe benefits and conditions of services.
Mayor of Khorixas Gerson //Goagoseb said that many towns cannot balance their books, because they are unable to collect enough revenue due to ineffective revenue collection systems. He also bemoaned the non-payment of services by customers that have resorted to illegal water and electricity connections.
Mayors, councillors and chairpersons of management committees from Opuwo, Kamanjab, Outjo and Khorixas attended the one-day meeting and also visited former Khorixas mayor Tryphosa Moloto to hand her a certificate of appreciation from ALAN.
Moloto suffered a stroke a year ago, but she is slowly recuperating and is now again able to talk and walk.