TRANSPARENCY and accountability through people’s participation in planning, budgeting and implementation of development must be the bedrock of local authorities, ActionAid Zambia country director Naluca Ziba has charged.
Ms Ziba said while ActionAid joined other stakeholders in applauding the high voter turnout in the recently held general elections that ushered in new councillors, it noted that there were no Ward Development Committees in almost all councils in the country.
She said although the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) formulated guidelines on the establishment, management and operation of Ward Development Committees in December 2013, local authorities continued to operate without these governance structures.
“The need to establish Ward Development Committees emanates from the fact that as principles of good governance, citizens should actively participate in Government processes and decision-making, directly or indirectly, through claimed and created spaces and structures,” she said.
Ms Ziba said it was for this reason that the national decentralisation policy (NDP) provided for creation of Ward Development Committee so as to promote a decentralised and democratically elected system of governance which enhances community participation in decision-making.
She said through devolution, as more and bigger functions were devolved to the local level, it was expected that large resources would be disbursed directly to councils with complex planning and budgeting processes.
“Our worry is on the ability for councils to handle these procedures in a transparent, accountable, responsive and inclusive manner, and to make democracy and indeed decentralization meaningful, communities have to be in touch with the work of their council,” she said.
Ms Ziba explained that the laws governing local government ensured that communities participate in the local decision-making process through various methods, including Ward Development Committee, consultative meetings, calls for public comment on issues and stakeholder meetings.
She reiterated that the involvement of residents in the democratic process goes beyond just voting and served to strengthen and deepen democracy.
“We are therefore of the view that there is need for checks and balances by creating and strengthening of the sub-district governance structures so that citizens are more directly taking part in the decision-making process of the Government to enable them influence public policies and programs in a manner that can create positive impacts on their economic and social lives,” Ms Ziba said.
She said local authorities were viewed as important agents for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and national development plans and as such there was need for a competent and strong local governance