You are currently viewing Councils must rebrand

Councils must rebrand

THE call by Ministry of Local Government Permanent Secretary Mathew Ngulube for local authorities in the country to change the negative public perception must be heeded. It is common knowledge that the mention of local authorities invokes a negative image in the minds of many Zambians, and justifiably so. Mr Ngulube has cited mismanagement of resources, land mismanagement, poor revenue collection, failure to pay salaries, non-remittance of statutory obligations and audit queries, among others, as the perception councils are known for. It is unfortunate that over the years many councils have degenerated their brand into one that is in negative light due to a myriad of challenges. Councils are known for bankruptcy and failure to meet operational obligations. Due to bankruptcy, many councils have failed to deliver quality services within the communities they serve.
For instance, many councils have gone to sleep in as far as their role to manage waste, provide social amenities, housing, public health and education, among other services. Local authorities have lamentably failed to provide recreational facilities such as play parks for communities as land meant for such has been auctioned as plots for building private houses. The local authorities have also neglected the maintenance of cities. This is evidenced by the heaps of garbage in undesignated places. Cities are generally filthy, including homes and trading areas. This is despite the local authorities having by-laws to enforce cleanliness and public health. Areas of revenue collection such as markets and bus stations have mostly been surrendered to political cadres. More often than not, local authorities are in the media for the wrong reasons; it is either a land scandal or audit queries.
Inefficiency and poor service delivery are considered closely intertwined with local authorities. While it is true that there are councils that have distinguished themselves by coming up with good initiatives and offering quality services to their communities, sadly many leave much to be desired.
The poor service delivery and scandals that characterise local authorities have entrenched negative images in the minds of people and require a lot of effort to be erased. As rightly noted by the PS Ngulube, it cannot be business as usual. Local authorities must endeavour to exonerate themselves from this negative image. This requires mindset transformation of all employees. Many employees working for councils have embraced the status quo and believe there is nothing they can do about it. As long as these employees hold on to such beliefs, nothing will change for local authorities. This therefore calls for managements to think of how to transform the mindsets of the workforce. This may require exposing employees to local authorities that are performing exceptionally well in other cities or countries. Local authorities may also engage experts to retrain or coach employees for effective performance. With innovative and skilled workforce, local authorities can be transformed into money-spinners. Local authorities cannot continue to rely on the meagre Equalisation Fund year in, year out, knowing very well that it is not sufficient to meet operational needs. Local authorities must rebrand and inspire confidence in the eyes of the public.