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Local govt commission being readied

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 December 2015, 23:34 by Denis Chabrol

Two years after laws were passed providing for the establishment of a Local Government Commission, the body is now expected to be operationalised in early 2016, the Ministry of Communities announced Tuesday.

Government says this will be done in time to provide oversight to the new local government organs (LGOs) that will take effect, following the March 18, 2016, Local Government Elections.

Parliament approved the creation of the Local Government Commission in 2013 to play a supportive role to the Ministry of Communities as it relates to dealing with such issues as staffing of LGOs and disputes among local authorities.

The then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration had argued that the law governing the Law Government Commission meant that some of the executive powers residing in the minister would have been unconstitutional.

The previous Minister with responsibility for Local Government, however, never issued a Commencement Order for the Local Government Commission Act to take effect and for the Commission to become operationalised.

In a recent interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA), Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan disclosed that funding for the Local Government Commission would be provided for in the 2016 National Budget. This, he said, would allow for the commencement of the operationalisation of the Local Government Commission, thereby ensuring it comes into being at the same time as the new councils.

Minister Bulkan noted that the Commission would have responsibility for regulation and oversight of all local authorities.

According to the Local Government Commission Act 2012, which allowed for the Commission to take effect, the Commission has the powers to monitor and review the performance and implementation of the policies of all LGOs, including taxation and protection of the environment. It will also monitor, evaluate and make recommendations on policies, procedures and practices of all organs in order to promote effective local governance.

It also has the power to investigate any matter under its purview and propose remedial action to the Minister, whenever or wherever necessary; to monitor and review all existing and proposed legislation, policies and measures relating to local government organs. It reports to the minister on the need for any amendment; to examine and propose ways of enhancing the capacity of LGOs, and to hear appeals instituted by employees dismissed by any LGO.

The establishment of the Commission was identified as part of the Local Government Reform process, where the vision was that “we should de-politicise the functioning and the workings of the local government system,” Minister Bulkan noted. In this regard, by creating an autonomous constitutional body, it therefore takes politics out of the day to day oversight and management of the working of the LGOs.

The Ministry of Communities however will not be totally divorced from the general management of LGOs as it will still have broad responsibilities for the operations of the councils.

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December 2015