Appreciating relevance of the devolution process

EDGAR Chibuta.

“I WILL fall on you like a tonne of bricks” was President Edgar Lungu’s warning to ministers resisting devolution.
I found President Lungu’s warning interesting, such that I have been tempted to throw my hat into the ring and support President Lungu on his ride to promote the devolution of power to the local government in line with Article 147 of the amended Constitution of Zambia (2015).
In the first place, it has to be brought to the attention of those resisting the devolution change that this process has in a long time been sought after by the people of Zambia on grounds that the centralised system of governance has outlived its usefulness and is thus a spent force.
The call from the President is therefore very timely and must breathe a new lease of life, especially in all the progressive politicians who attended the 63rd Annual Conference of the Local Government Association of Zambia. I have been in the civil service for the past 20 years and have on several occasions witnessed strife and injustice that has been brought about by the centralised system of governance, and this explains why many people are of the idea that the civil service is crippled and the morale of the workers is at its all-time low. The time to empower the local government is now because we have in place a specific Article, in the Constitution of Zambia, which was only amended during the tenure of President Lungu, that spells out clearly that the powers of the central government shall be devolved to the lower organs of the local authority to spur political, social, legal and economic development. We therefore do not expect anyone to fight against Article 147 of the cited amended Constitution.
We need to appreciate the relevance of the devolution process and realise the fact that the latter has ridden above our personal benefits and it is for the good of the general populace – the 17 plus million Zambians who attend our political rallies and before whom we knelt down for the vote. We have a centralised Public Service Management Division (PSMD) in Lusaka that may not be in good position to perceive the good deeds of a worker in a far-flung area like Chavuma and who has served this great nation for more than two decades, so the best way PSMD can attend to such a one is to devolve the powers to the lower organs so as to boost the morale of such civil servants. We certainly need to appreciate the usage of certain administrative terms such as controlling officer, and as defined under Sec 10 and 11 of the Public Finance Management Act (2018), such a one has been appointed by the Secretary to the Treasury and has the powers to plan and control the resources (financial or human) so that development can be scaled down to the lower organs and thus benefit the Zambians, and Article 152 of the Constitution of Zambia, in regard to the mandate of the local government, be fulfilled to the fullest.
Our leaders need to support the President and appreciate the fact that the wastage of financial and human resources in Zambia will be minimised once the devolution of powers is fully implemented. We have the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) year in and year out debate on the audit queries that arise from government department and, as noted by the Office of the Auditor General, a creature of the law set up pursuant to Article 212 of the cited Constitution of this great nation. The queries are a clear indication that the centralised system is of little use to Zambia and the devolved system must swiftly come in and serve the situation without ado. Article 210 of the Constitution of Zambia deals with the procurement of goods, works and services and is adequately covered, and the Public Procurement Act (PPA) Number 12 (2008) spells out the principle of procurement and the need for the procurement practitioners to add value for money (VFM) to the organisation. If the council secretary (CS) or town clerk (TC) is empowered through the devolution of power, I’m pretty sure that the procurement of goods, service and works will rhyme together with the cited PPA and the incurring of huge procurement scandals will be a thing of the past. The PAC will thus have less work to do because the entire scope of work will have been dealt with at either district or provincial level.
If our ministers are truly a crop of leaders representing the will of the people, and if it is true that the voice of the people is the voice of the Almighty God, then we have no option but to adhere to the call from the President that we devolve the powers to the lower organs of governance.
The author is a procurement assistant in Chavuma.

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