THE decision by Cabinet to endorse the construction of civic centres in each of the seven constituencies in Lusaka will enhance service delivery by the local authority.
As stated by the Minister of Local Government, Vincent Mwale, the decision, which is part of the decentralisation policy, will also allow citizens to access services closer to their homes.
“We will not allow our people to spend money coming to Lusaka Civic Centre. There are always a lot of queues and some people are sent back and told to come back another date,” Mr Mwale said.
It is indisputable that Lusaka Civic Centre has proved inadequate to cater for the swelling population of Lusaka.
It is no wonder the centre is characterised by long queues as people jostle to access the many services offered by the local authority.
It is, however, heartening that Government is alive to this fact, hence the decision to construct seven more civic centres across the city.
What is even more encouraging is that this is a short-term plan, as Government is ready to start construction as early as next month.
This means that very soon, people in areas like Matero, Kabwata, Munali, Kanyama and other constituencies will be able to access social services by the local authorities within their localities.
Decentralising the local authority to constituency level will no doubt enhance effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery.
We know that the local authorities play a critical role in the well-being of citizens through provision of numerous services.
Lusaka City Council, for instance, is among others responsible for the following:
• Establishment and maintenance of a system of street lighting in public places.
• Waste management and sanitary administration.
• Registration of births, marriage, deaths and clubs.
• Establishment and maintenance of fire-fighting and prevention services in order to protect life, property and natural resources from damage by fire;
• Control of persons and premises engaged in manufacturing, preparations, storage handling, sale or distribution of food or drink, including intoxicating substances;
• Management of land use and erection of buildings in the interest of public health, safety and orderly development of the city.
• Provision and management of social amenities such as markets, bus stations, libraries and recreation centres.
• Maintenance of parks and other open spaces in terms of landscaping. This includes the cutting of trees around the city.
• Issuance of trading licences to those conducting various businesses in the city.
• Assisting in the establishment of the Ward Development Committee which spearheads development issues at ward level, and also the Zone Development Committee.
These are just some of the services the council provides for the general public.
Given the numerous services the local authority has to provide, coupled with the rapid population growth, decentralisation is certainly the way to go.
This is the only way to ensure that all city dwellers are serviced in an efficient and effective manner.
As it is now, the few officers at Lusaka Civic Centre cannot adequately attend to all residents and the needy areas in the city.
However, with decentralisation, it is expected that more manpower and resources will be allocated at constituency level, making service delivery more efficient and effective.
Decentralising the local authority will also allow officers to easily identify and focus on needy areas in various localities.
For instance, we know that waste management and sanitation administration has been a challenge in our city. With decentralisation, we expect more attention to be given to this area.
It is also probable that taking civic centres closer to the people will enhance the involvement of residents in the development processes.
Construction of the seven civic centres will also help decongest the main centre. This will subsequently help people seeking services to save on time and money as they will be able to get the services within a walking distance and the shortest possible time.
It is, however, hoped that those who will be given the responsibility to run these centres will work hard to ensure that people get the value for having the facilities within their localities.
Given the country’s limited resources which have to be shared among many needy areas, these centres may not get adequate funding to meet all needs.
They should, therefore, consider engaging in income-generating ventures to supplement their budgets.
This is the only way they can be assured of sustainability.