By LINDA NYONDO
FOR the past 50 years, Zambia has been working towards devolving some powers to the local authorities in a bid to improve service delivery to its citizens.
Decentralisation as the programme is called, entails transferring power with matching resources from central to local government. In other words, it entails empowering people to participate in the countryâ€™s development process.
In order to ensure that decentralisation is achieved, Government adopted a policy in 2002, which the Patriotic Front (PF) Government revised on February 11, 2013.
President Sataâ€™s government saw it necessary to revise the policy after its 10-year life span expired.
In his foreword to the revised policy, President Sata says the decentralised system of governance will remain the focus for development and service delivery, while taking into account the participation of all citizens.
This decision has enhanced Governmentâ€™s resolve to speed up the process of decentralisation, as can been seen by the creation of new districts.
Government believes that without peopleâ€™s participation in the development process, proper service delivery will remain a pipedream.
This is the reason why Government has been educating people on the importance of decentralisation and how it would benefit citizens.
To highlight the importance of decentralisation and how it can help foster development, the Decentralisation Secretariat which is under the Ministry of Local Government and Housing held sensitisation campaigns recently.
During the meetings, many people appreciated the decision by Government to allow citizens to exercise some control over their local affairs and participating in fostering meaningful development.
Decentralisation will require that some degree of authority is devolved to provincial, district and sub-district levels.
â€œDecentralisation relates to the core business of local government, it looks at how we can improve transparency and accountability,â€™â€™ Decentralisation Secretariat director Alfred Sakwiya said.
He said most people do not appreciate how much they could benefit from the decentralisation programme once the central government devolves some power to the local authorities. Other people, equally do not know the impact of local decisions on the local community.
Mr Sakwiya said the local government system was not just meant for administrative purposes, but rather cuts across all sectors of society and allows people to provide feedback to the government on service delivery.
And senior programmes officer, Ifoma Mulowa, said the devolution of powers to the local government has the potential to promote good corporate governance at local governance.
â€œFor good local governance to be present, there must be capacity at the local level and the community should realise that when decisions are made, everyone should be accountable and responsible,â€™â€™ Ms Ifoma said.
She said decentralisation allows for increased resource allocation to grassroot programmes, and also enhances community participation in the development process. In addition, this creates room for improved service delivery at community level.
Ms Ifoma said decentralisation is good because it gives people the opportunity to have a say on programmes that they want implemented as opposed to having the central Government making decisions on their behalf.
She said decentralisation is not a panacea for development, although it is an effective tool because it allows citizens to participate in deciding what type of development they want.
However, Ms Ifoma said Government should consider building the capacity of councils before implementing the decentralisation programme, taking into account the different challenges that they face.
And a fellow at the University of Zambia, Gertrude Ngenda said reforms such as decentralisation are instituted to better the lives of people.
She said services being delivered should benefit and stimulate the local economy.
Ms Ngenda said decentralisation will help local authorities to operate as economic entities and not as social welfare centres.
And a Lusaka resident, John Njovu, who was present at one of the public discussion forums said decentralisation should be implemented soon because it is good for the people.
Mr Njovu explained that decentralisation enhances democracy because it allows citizens to make decisions on matters that affect them.
â€œWe believe it will bring development because the community will be involved. We hope that with funding coming directly to the local authority, there will be transparency in the manner that money is used,â€ he said.
He said before the programme is fully implemented, people will need to be sensitised on what decentralisation is and how it would benefit them.
To achieve intended results in its decentralisation drive, Government will empower provinces, districts and communities to achieve effective social economic development.
It will also promote peopleâ€™s participation in democratic governance at the local level in order to achieve effective social economic development,
Lusaka Town Clerk Alex Mwansa also feels that people need to be educated on what decentralisation entails and how it would empower them.
Government will soon launch a nationwide campaign to sensitise Zambians on decentralisation and how it will empower citizens.
The idea is to promote the peopleâ€™s participation in the development process once the central government devolves some of its powers to the local government.
By LINDA NYONDO