The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Annual Governance Assessment of local and regional authorities has ranked the //Kharas, Zambezi Regional Councils and Karasburg, Katima Mulilo, Rundu and Outapi Town Councils as the worst performing local authorities and regional councils.
The findings focus on municipalities and larger town councils where institutional capacities are relatively more developed.
Each of the 32 Local and Regional Councils selected for this study’s first edition was assessed according to ten criteria which include participatory democracy, fiscal transparency, service delivery, online presence/website, online presence/social media, e-governance, OAG reports, activity reports, incidences of corruption, mismanagement and/or gross misconduct and community presence/access to information. Based on their performances in each of these areas, councils were categorised into best, higher-average, lower-average and worst levels of transparency and accountable governance.
The paper concluded that Erongo, Kavango West, Kunene, Oshana, Oshikoto regional councils and Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Windhoek Municipalities are the best performing.
The institute’s research associate Kitty Mcgirr recommended that the regional body’s build online presence, auditing training, diversifying revenue streams and improving access to information.
In terms of diversifying revenue streams, Mcgirr said a commonality binding many LAs and
RCs in the wake of the pandemic is their considerable debts owed to water and electricity
She said these dire financial straits largely stem from the Minister of Urban and Rural Development, (MURD’s) 2020 directive that all residents be given access to water irrespective of their ability to pay for it to fend off the spread of COVID-19.
‘’Bills incurred for this blanket relief measure were allegedly supposed to be paid for by GRN in due course, but this commitment has since been rescinded. Consequently, local authorities are experiencing increasingly more frequent water cut offs due to their inability to purchase water supplies while also honouring debt repayments,’’ she said.
She then notes that, ‘’this unfavourable situation makes it all the more imperative that councils work to diversify their revenue streams by partnering with GRN and civil society on income-generating development projects; formulating land rental agreements with private sector actors; addressing loopholes in their financial systems and cracking down on illegal water and electricity connections’’.
Mcgirr further stated that these type of initiatives are especially necessary in light of the apparent
dormancy of the Trust Fund for Regional Development and Equity which appears to have been entirely unresponsive to various councils’ attempts to gain access to funds during the two-year period under review.
On improving access to information, she said, only 15% of the entities invited to participate in
the assessment submitted the needed documentation.
Consequently, she notes, that the difficulties experienced by the IPPR chasing the responses for access to public information begs the question of how quickly if all ordinary citizens are receiving responses on their own queries, complaints and all other manner of correspondence with their representatives.
‘’Councils are advised to improve the quality of their customer service by imposing measurable targets for cutting response times and inviting the public to participate in surveys to share their feedback on how governing bodies can better serve the needs of their constituents,’’ she said.
The bodies need auditing training because out of the 32 LAs and RCs surveyed in this study, no council was awarded an unqualified score by the OAG in their most recent audit reports.
IPPR notes that this underlines the necessity for all employees working in councils Finance
Departments to undergo IPSAS (International Public Sector Accounting Standards) training so as to achieve an acceptable level of financial accounting standards going forward.
The institute recommends councils to enlist the support of the Namibian Institute of Professional Accountants (NIPA), which recently signed a service agreement with the Windhoek Municipality.