For the first time in over two decades, there is renewed hope that the on-going Tonse Administration public reform programme, will give decentralisation a life it deserves.
In the 2020/21 National Budget, overall government transfers to councils, minus personal emoluments, are K67.5 billion of which K37.5 billion is for other recurrent transactions (ORT) while K30 billion is development budget. On the other hand, domestic revenues are estimated at K1.1 trillion of the total K1.99 trillion nine months budget.
This means that total allocation to councils, in terms of direct transfers as a percentage of total domestic revenues, is 6.13 percent, which is barely one percentage point above the required, but ignored, five percent threshold.
In a written response, Public Sector Reforms Department spokesperson McCathy Mwalwimba said the reforms have priortised the review of the Local Government Act (2010) which, among other issues, will ensure that the central government meets the requirement to transfer five percent of national revenue to councils.
He added that guidelines have also been developed to facilitate assets devolution to councils.
Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson Anjoya Mwanza said her ministry and the National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) are developing a fiscal Decentralisation Strategy which will outline obligations by government to provide significant financial resources to the councils.
Mwalwimba added: “Efforts are being made to engage Ministry of Finance and Accountant General’s Department to allow for ceding of funds that Government has been collecting to the councils. Some of the funds to be ceded are the motor vehicle registration fees, casino fees, gambling fees, mining fees, toll fees and energy levy”.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who is the champion of the reforms programme since assuming a second-term of office, has made some policy pronouncements that further raise the hope that, perhaps, the new administration may do things differently.
Mwalwimba named Energy, Mining, Tourism, Lands, Trade and Transport as sectors that are yet to devolve powers.
In an interview on Thursday, deputy minister of local government and rural development Halima Daudi, also hinted that after the meeting with the Veep, her ministry has been engaging concerned ministries to devolve powers.
“We have discussed with these ministries and currently we are working to devolve powers and this will happen. In days to come you will see progress and councils will not complain again” said Daudi.