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MAYOR of Lusaka Miles Sampa.

It’s time councils became businesses

IT IS not a secret that local authorities in Zambia are financially overwhelmed, incapacitating their ability to deliver quality service to residents.
Whether they are small or big councils, the problem of finances is a common one to all of them.
And yet they need the funds to efficiently and effectively run the local authorities and deliver better service to residents.
The councils need the funds because of their pivotal role in promoting governance at the local as well as community level.
And now with Government’s drive to devolve power to the local authorities, the need for councils to have sustainable sources of funding becomes paramount.
During the swearing in of new mayor of Lusaka Miles Sampa, Vice-President Inonge Wina urged him to work on modalities that will increase revenue for the city of Lusaka.
She said the council has potential to raise enough revenue for its operations.
While the suggestion was being made in reference to Lusaka, we believe the lack of finances affects most of our councils in the country, with some of them getting to the extent of failing to pay their workers, resulting in their failure to meet statutory obligations.
We wish to commend the councils for the efforts they have implemented in revenue collection in the various localities.
It is also noted that some of the areas of revenue collection are similar to all the councils.
Already, in Lusaka, the council has engaged a company that is collecting parking fees from motorists in town and Kamwala trading area.
Such partnerships are a positive move and we urge all councils to form linkages with private companies to help them deliver quality service.
A number of economic activities take place in the localities and councils are aware of them.
That is why in the past, we saw Chipata Municipal Council collect bicycle levy. The council took advantage of the high number of bicycles in its locality to raise funds in an effort to deliver better service to residents.
It is time councils countrywide exploited more ways of raising revenue, according to economic activities that take place in their localities, to enhance service delivery and be more relevant to the process of devolved governance.
We take cognisance that Mr Sampa has pledged to run the council like a business enterprise and we agree that this is a correct approach to take.
Any business enterprise aims to be self-sustaining and we believe that is the reason Mr Sampa has taken this approach.
We want to urge other councils to take this view and run as business enterprises so that they sustain their operations without much dependency on Government grants.
It is also worth noting that one of the challenges councils face is lack of prudent financial management, a vice that has left some of them with financial woes.
In coming up with strategies to run councils as business enterprises, there is need to put in place measures to curb financial mismanagement.
The misuse of funds by those entrusted to use them for the benefit of residents deprives a local authority of its ability to deliver better service and that is why such individuals should never be spared.