Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Speech at The Local Government Conference on ‘Strengthening Local Government for Effective Service Delivery and Sustainable Development’

source: Republic of Botswana (28/2/10) TAUTONA TIMES no 3 of 2010
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
“Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery”

B1) 22/2/10: Speech Marking the Official Opening of The Local Government Conference on ‘Strengthening Local Government for Effective Service Delivery and Sustainable Development’ by H.H. the Vice President Lt. Gen. Mompati Sebogodi Merafhe, MP

[Salutations]…Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I cannot thank you enough for having given me the opportunity this morning, to be part of as distinguished a gathering as this one. Your conference comes at a time when the world economy has been slumped against the ropes for an uncomfortably long period of time. The resulting recession severely undercut our ability to deliver services to our people.

Director of Ceremonies,

2. The theme of this conference, “Strengthening Local Government for Effective Service Delivery and Sustainable Development,” could not have been more appropriate. As governance structures that are closest to the people, Local Governments are expected to provide essential services to their respective communities. Local governments are, therefore, always in the public eye.

3. It is from the public that you will know whether you are delivering or whether the leadership vision is creating the desired impact. That necessarily means that you are under constant pressure to create opportunities for more qualitative life for the communities that you serve. This conference is therefore welcome as it is geared towards promoting debate on key local governance issues like policy-making, leadership, local government financing and economic empowerment strategies. It is my hope that this conference will provide an opportunity for robust sharing of ideas that will nurture the growth and sustenance of local governance.

Director of Ceremonies,

4. I appreciate the fact that Local Governments are at varying levels of development in different countries. In Botswana, Central Government is mandated to formulate policies while implementation occurs at the Local Government level through local authorities and other local-level institutions. At Independence, the Botswana Government adopted a decentralisation approach designed to transfer authority and functions from the centre to Local Authorities and other institutions. This approach has worked well for us as a country in that both decision-making and service provision lie with Local Authorities and other decentralized sections of government. My Government will continue to support local government authorities in their endeavour to build their capacity to deliver services and make decisions at the local level. I am aware that other countries have different models of governance and a conference like this affords us all an opportunity to learn and borrow from each other’s best practices.

Director of Ceremonies,

5. My Government has always subscribed to the principles of good governance, transparency and accountability at all levels. That has largely been made possible by making democracy the main tool of our statecraft. While we have scored major successes, there are still some challenges that have to be tackled. Some of those challenges relate to improving and strengthening our Local Government structures as well as providing for them in terms of finance and basic services.

6. Over the years the Government has almost wholly financed the activities of Local Authorities. Currently, Government provides 60% and 95% revenue support to urban and rural councils respectively for the recurrent budget. Unfortunately, this situation has led to a culture of dependence on Central Government and consequently, has impaired the ability of councils to generate their own finances. This state of affairs is not sustainable and imposes upon us the urgency of thinking up ways in which local authorities can be self-sustaining.

Director of Ceremonies,

7. My Government has committed itself to abiding by a number of protocols and guidelines that are meant to enhance the efficiency of Local Government. One such protocol is the “Freeport Declaration on Improving Local Government: The Commonwealth Vision.” Its main objective is to build on and strengthen the outcomes of earlier frameworks such as the 2005 Aberdeen Agenda and 2007 Auckland Accord.

Director of Ceremonies,

8. In our quest to make Local Government more effective, we may have to review the roles, responsibilities and functions of our local political leadership. It may also be important to re-orient the working relationship between the centre and the local level machineries with a view to re-defining the concept of decentralization. I must also implore you to take the opportunity of this conference to deliberate on local economic development issues that can be used as a strategy to enhance local governance.

Director of Ceremonies,

9. In 2008, Government made a decision to create additional 19 sub-districts in addition to the existing 15. In an effort to bring services closer to the people, five districts have come together to establish a joint consultative forum. This forum will enable these districts to maximize use of resources for the benefit of residents, regardless of administrative boundaries. This is an excellent cooperation model and I would recommend it to other jurisdictions.

10. On a related matter, Botswana government enjoys partnerships with other development agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with whom we are exploring possibilities of developing a local economic development model. The same organization has been instrumental in the Millennium Development Goal project. I therefore challenge you to ensure that the gains made in the attainment of the MDGs are not reversed as we approach 2015.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

11. The Aberdeen Agenda stipulates that elected and appointed officials should have the required competencies to enable them to carry out their duties. Against this backdrop, my Government saw it fit to train Councillors on leadership skills when they assumed office after last year’s General Elections. As political leaders we must take ownership of projects in our constituencies and drive service delivery.

12. As I conclude my remarks, let me draw your attention to the fact that His Excellency, the President of Botswana has made Delivery (with a capital ‘D’) one of the signposts of his roadmap. This should encourage the local political leadership to make service delivery a priority. With those few remarks, it is my singular honour and privilege to declare this conference officially opened.

No comments: