August 22, 2004

Decentralisation policy launched

President Mwanawasa has launched Zambia's decentralisation policy and called for effective financial management among councils and other local Government organs in the country. The President said that matching resources would be granted to councils for them to cover the costs of performing relevant functions. The policy which was adopted by Cabinet in 2002 would see the transfer of some administrative powers from the Central Government to local authorities to reduce costs of service delivery, reduce duplication of work and improve the amount of development financing available. Mwanawasa said he expected improved community participation in development, enhanced accountability and improved responsiveness of Government to its clients and the quality of public service. According to him, the Government was committed to adopting a new attitude towards matters of local governance to be manifested in the legal transfer of both mandate and matching resources. The long-term vision of the Government was to achieve a fully decentralised and democratically elected system of governance at all levels. "This system will be characterised by open, predictable and transparent policy-making and implementation processes, effective local community participation in decision making, development and administration while maintaining sufficient linkages between Central Government and the periphery," the President stated.
He said under the policy, Government would deliberately focus efforts on the districts as the basic units of national development and also devolve functions in the policy documents to democratically elected districts. National and provincial administrations would be right-sized to enable them discharge their policy planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation functions more effectively. The President also announced that a new level of formalised government administration based at sub-district level would be introduced, based on the current wards and would be spearheaded by elective units to be called Area Development Committee (ADC). He, however, noted that the financing element of the policy would be costly and there was need for councils to seek other revenue sources. Furthermore, the policy implementation exercise would be monitored by the Cabinet Office through the decentralisation secretariat.
In a different context, President Mwanawasa has also explained that he had no intention of calling for dialogue with opposition political leaders. Addressing a public rally in Itezhi - Itezhi, the President said it was not true to suggest that he had not consulted the stakeholders because he had consulted traditional leaders, the church and civil society. According to him, he had asked political leaders to discuss matters of national interest but they refused to go to State House. "They have spurned these invitations. I am sick and tired of inviting people to come and discuss with me," President Mwanawasa said. "My answer to these political leaders is that I have no intention to discuss with them anymore. If they want to discuss with me, they must politely ask my colleagues." (The Times of Zambia, Ndola / The Post, Lusaka)

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