Understanding decentralisation
Published On March 20, 2016 » 6918 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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• GOVERNMENT is committed to developing infrastructure in newly established districts.

• GOVERNMENT is committed to developing infrastructure in newly established districts.


I WANT to welcome you to the series of advertorials that would provide updates on the current developments in the decentralisation implementation process.

The articles will focus on decentralisation as a means to effective service delivery and development.

Already, the creation of 33 new district councils and one province goes to demonstrate Government’s commitment to deliver quality services that are easily accessible to the people.

The preliminary articles will highlight the historical context of decentralisation in Zambia with further issues focusing on current developments, strategies in decentralisation, benefits there from, milestones attained, among others.

It is important to note that the empowerment of all Zambians to realise their social, economic, political and cultural aspirations is the foundational objective of the existence of the State.

Empowerment of citizens is achieved when the citizenry are given adequate access to appropriate information, organisational facilitation, financial and other resources which they need in order to sustainably use the natural and other endowments at their disposal to realise these aspirations.

Clearly, it is only when citizens are empowered that sustainable development takes place.

The principle of decentralisation has proved since time immemorial that it can provide one of the best opportunities of attaining this empowerment objective in all human societies (Decentralisation Implementation Plan 2010-2013).

In light of the foregoing reality, Zambia has since its formation in 1964, committed itself to the principle of decentralisation as a primary vehicle for attaining the vision of a democratic and developmental state that balances the requirements of democracy and popular participation with those of viability, efficiency and effective governance especially at the local level.

In the historical perspective, several attempts have been made to decentralise and these attempts are divided into five phases:

Phase I – 1964 to 1970

Phase II – 1971 to 1979

Phase III – 1980 to 1990

Phase IV – 1991 to 2000

Phase V – 2000 to date

As a country, we are in Phase Five of the implementation of decentralisation which, if properly implemented, can lead to efficient and effective delivery of services.

Decentralisation through devolution has been chosen as the most effective means as it ensures technical efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery and enhances popular participation.

The fundamental reasons for adopting devolution as the form of decentralisation in a unitary state like Zambia are varied and these will be outlined in the subsequent articles.

The principle of devolution is strengthened by the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 which provides for the system of local government based on democratically elected councils.

The Constitution (Amendment) Act No.2 of 2016 also underpins the principles of decentralisation in the sense that services shall be provided to sub-district structures in an equitable and sustainable manner.

No doubt the Constitution, has given supremacy to Councils (local Authorities) which will administer the district and oversee programmes and projects.

As a matter of emphasis, the implementation of a decentralised system of governance today remains a fundamental objective of the Government, promoting the Zambian population’s involvement in the planning of development, decision-making and the running of the Government affairs that affect their lives on a day-to-day basis.

This objective is best achieved through devolution of appropriate power and resources to democratically elected councils respectively within the unitary State.

During the period up to 2012, Government has undertaken substantial preparatory work to facilitate the implementation of the decentralisation process.

This work which has included establishing a clear policy position on decentralisation, sensitising the public and setting up of implementation structures at all levels, has laid a firm foundation for the rapid implementation of the policy during the years ahead.

The Policy aims at taking stock of this progress and build upon it in key areas such as restructuring of councils and sector devolution, participatory planning, fiscal decentralisation and governance.

As already known, the objectives of Decentralisation in Zambia stems from the need for the citizenry to exercise control over their local affairs and foster meaningful and equitable development throughout the country in line with the Constitution.

We have decentralised primarily because public administration in Zambia is characterised by excessive centralisation of power, authority, resources and functions and thereby subjecting Government institutions at provincial, district and sub-district levels to nearly absolute control by the central government.

This arrangement has had several negative impacts on the development of the country including poor delivery of local services and limited participation of citizen in development among others.

In order to address this situation, the Government has formulated and revised the National Decentralisation Policy providing for the clear assignment of functions to different levels of the public service.

The Policy also provides for the transfer of designated authority and functions with matching resources to lower levels of the public service and thereby, equipping these levels with meaningful capacity to discharge public functions assigned to them.

Given that devolution has to happen within the legal framework, amendments to certain pieces of legislation such as the Public Finance Act, Local Government Act et al, is inevitable.

It should be exciting to the readers to learn that on 1st January 2015, the Goverment through Circular No. 10 of 2014, devolved functions to councils across the country regardless of status; district, municipal or city council.

In his regard, Cabinet Office is committed to keeping the public informed about the progress and strides scored so far in decentralisation reforms whose overall purpose is to improve service delivery.

Through these Advertorials, Cabinet Office through the Decentralisation Secretariat will document the historical perspective of decentralisation, key successes and milestones so far attained, challenges in the reforms and best practices from within the region.

More importantly is the realisation that decentralisation is blowing winds of hope to the remotest parts of Zambia as we see services delivered at the doorsteps of citizens in, Zimba, Pemba, Sinda, Chilanga, Chirundu, Rufunsa, Vubwi, Luano, Chisamba, Chitambo, Shiwang’andu and Mafinga.

The rest include Nalolo, Mitete, Sikoongo, Mwandi, Mulobezi, Sioma, Luampa, Nkeyema, Manyinga, Ikeleng’i, Chikankata, Nsama, Shibuyunji, Chipili, Mwansabombwe, Chembe, Lunga, Kalumbila, Mushindamo; the newly created districts in Zambia.

(The Author is Assistant Director -Communications, Decentralisation Secretariat, Cabinet Office)

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