Local governments want more freedom to exercise their powers

Local government leaders want Parliament to urge the government to allow them exercise their powers under decentralisation as stipulated in the Local Governments’ Act.

In a presentation on challenges of local governments, the Kabale LCV Chairperson, Patrick Besigye Keihwa said that local governments do not have any powers to manage their affairs.

Keihwa added that most decisions that affect local governments are taken by the central government.

“We cannot work efficiently because the central governments decide what resources are required and therefore, allocated down to the local governments,” he said.

Keihwa made the revelation on Saturday during the Parliament Outreach Programme in Kigezi Sub-Region held in Kabale.

He explained that local governments are not involved in planning or deciding how much they need to run their affairs and how they utilize the revenue they generate at local level.

“The policy of decentralisation is weakened and we need the intervention of Parliament. We are unable to conduct the required number of council meetings because we are not funded,” he said.

The Public Finance Management Act, Keihwa said, also overrides and undermines the mandate of the local councils to manage their finances.

“The Ministry of Finance decides on the allocations of local governments; local council leaders have to follow up at the central government for financing,” he noted.

Keihwa added that this lack of powers is made worse by matters of underfunding.

“The provision of a meagre 12.9 per cent of the national budget to cater for all local governments that manage the bulk of the delivery of resources to the grass root is inadequate,” he noted.

Keihwa said that the Constitution provides for a clear funding formula for local service delivery that has been ignored by the ministry of finance.

“There are deliberate efforts by the central government to fail local institutions when it comes to timely delivery of finances,” he said.

He noted that local governments cannot hire their own staff, a role which is currently undertaken by the Ministries of Finance and Public Service.

Hon. David Bahati, the Minister of State for Finance, who represented the Speaker of Parliament, said that he had noted the matters raised adding that a report on the issues will be tabled and debated on the floor of Parliament.

“We promise to debate and take action as Parliament on the pertinent issues like failure to implement the decentralization policies; inadequate pay and poor coordination between local and central governments,” he said.

He appealed to the local leaders to work hard to generate as much revenue as they can locally; to fight corruption and take quick decision on matters within their mandate.

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