Local Authorities’ Governance competition is a move long overdue

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By Silver Bugingo


There are more topical issues of public concern at the beginning of this year, but I’ve personally drawn passionate interest in the Ombudsman’s office initiative ; obliging district local authorities to maximally respond to good governance competitions the local media reported.

There’s no doubt such competitions will in a way, help local government authorities from the grassroots to curb down the practical leadership challenges; address any forms of corruption tendencies and involve citizens – the beneficiaries of their mandate in the public policy implementation.

Such initiatives will as well help measure the local authorities’ performance through, transparence in tendering, financial accountability, diligent property declaration and good governance practice generally.

For our dear readers who are unfamiliar with the topic, the district good governance contest has been in the making for the last four years. The most previous contest released in November 2011 ranked Gisagara, Nyamasheke and Kamonyi Districts the best three while Rwamagamana emerged the worst with zero score, the reason being the unwillingness by the district management to respond to the repeated call from the Ombudsman’s office to participate in the evaluation process.

But of course such adamancy has cost some district officials dearly; the district executive secretary and other key officials have reportedly been suspended for lack of diligence in executing their mandates and others have even been temporarily detained pending thorough investigations on their involvement in procurement irregularities.

This writer has also read in the Sunday Times weekly reviews about other local leaders in the southern province, Mbazi sector who have been arrested over abuse of office through illegal seizing of  peoples’ property due to alleged failure of victims to pay annual medical insurance contributions commonly abbreviated as RAMA.

In other related media reports, poor procurement procedures by the local governments  has been identified as the lacuna to their successful performance contracts locally termed as Imihigo. This accountability challenge was emphatically raised in the recent discussion between the central government and the local government officials chaired by the Minister of Local government Hon. James Musoni.

The meeting aimed to among other issues, review the progress on the 2011-2012 performance contracts.

And according to sources who attended the meeting, policies adopted by local authorities on tender invitations for execution of certain projects in various districts are reportedly dragging the process. But of course the major challenge to the local government bodies is standard procurement.

Would it be surprising that the number of companies blacklisted by the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA) has more than doubled? In fact by April last year, 43 companies had been blacklisted over cases of forgery and inability to execute tender.

The number according to reliable information Rwanda Public procurement Authority RPPA has increased to 71, and some have been banned from getting any government tenders due to such corruption tendencies. Even those not banned are not safe; once blacklisted, a company spends up to three years without accessing any government contract.

Moreover, the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council’s annual Governance survey 2010 that was released late last year, revealed that the incidence of corruption in the business sector and the rate of business-related bribery is rampant and needs to be addressed.

Be it as it may, the local government minister says he’s confident the mayors’ performance contracts were on tract and that public financial management committees at Sector, district and provincial levels have been created to help leaders work out standard procurement and budgeting plans.

All this is a testimony that government, particularly the executive arm of the state is aware of the governance and accountability challenges and is working hand in hand with genuine civil society organizations and other development partners. I mean the challenges should be taken hands on by all relevant public officials, the private sector, civil society organs and the general citizenry.

The question to local authorities, so why leave that entire burden to the head of state? But fortunately, all such negligence on the part of public officials were discussed and evaluated at the recently concluded annual government retreat.

As it were this year’s agenda mainly focus on the use of home-grown governance initiatives such as Umuganda, performance contracts, Ubudehe, one –cow-per-family among others to strengthen the poverty reduction drive. The choice of the priorities for the event was premised on a survey that showed poverty in the country is reducing by 12 per cent in the last five years.

With all this commitment to review the leadership challenges, I have no doubt that tangible solutions were agreed upon and will in the long-run post Rwanda’s image regionally and globally higher as has been evidenced by annual governance/ corruption trends by international independent corruption watchdogs such as Transparency International and the American-based Global Integrity.

For reader not conversant with the most recent annual reports, Rwanda emerged the second best on governance and anti-corruption scorecards by Global Integrity annual report 2009 with 71 per cent while Malawi was the best among the 8 African countries with 73 per cent. I will only be surprised if Rwanda doesn’t emerge the best in any of the forthcoming annual reports, considering all these governance initiatives being introduced.

Well, although external financial assistance will continue to play a big role in Rwanda’s development agenda like in any developing countries, a focus on domestic resources mobilization to meet medium and long-term development needs is necessary for a number of reasons.

Foremost, enhancing the role of domestic revenues reduces government’s dependence on external capital inflows in form of official development aid (ODA), foreign borrowing and foreign direct investment (FDI). By reducing dependence on these inflows and their associated conditionalities, domestic revenues give countries more space and control of their development process, enabling them to pursue truly naturally-owned development strategies.

Moreover, government’s more reliance on domestic revenues leads to better systems of governance because mobilizing domestic public revenues involves implicit contract between the state, firms and households that generate it. And domestic revenues are considerably more stable than the unpredictable traditional external capital inflows. Even though foreign aid has increased in the recent years, these inflows remain volatile and unpredictable.

Fortunately for Rwandan citizens, unlike in most African countries where there’s low investment rates due to difficulties related to unfavourable investment climates such  political instability and corruption, Rwanda is politically stable and the less corrupt in the East and central African region. As one objective analyst put it; “Rwanda is shaking off its inglorious past with innovative business sector interwoven with a vibrant tourism and the modern way of life”.

But like I have always opined, the onus is still on government to investigate, prosecute and stump out the existing and future greedy and negligent senior civil servants, for any flicker on accountability and transparency to the taxpayers will reduce on their willingness to pay taxes.

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