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Opinions of Sunday, 7 May 2017

Columnist: Andrews Krow

Bugri Naabu's bribery allegation and our local government system

Northern Regional Chairman of the NPP, Bugri Naabu and Minister for Gender, Otiko DjabaNorthern Regional Chairman of the NPP, Bugri Naabu and Minister for Gender, Otiko Djaba

Madam Otiko Djaba has accused Mr Bugri Naabu, the Northern Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) of taking bribe from people interested in the position of District and Municipal Chief Executive positions in his region. The interesting part of the allegation is the items the regional chairman collect from these interested persons. The Gender Minister emphatically stated in the interview she granted that the regional chairman collects goats, sheep and cows from interested persons.

The matter has dominated political discussions on social media and likely to dominate discussions in the traditional media next week. I don't think the matter is receiving the serious treatment it deserves; the usual political chess game is trivialising this serious national issue. We must all be worried to hear that such serious appointments are made based on the applicant’s ability to provide more goats, sheep, cows and other materials instead of competence and merit.

The system of local government has much fine work to its credit but it is generally accepted that its structure has not changed enough to keep pace with the changing social patterns. Maybe the time to give discussions about the system serious attention is now.

Certain fundamental problems militate against realisation of intended benefits communities must get from the concept. Perhaps the most fundamental has been the great variation in the size and resources of units all supposed to perform the same tasks with roughly the same standard.

Traditionally, local government should provide services for property owners, paved streets, lightening, water, sewerage and their main source of funding being local government tax in the form of rate levied on property values and funds from government.

This means that the areas with most problems are usually those where property values are low and where there are therefore very few resources available to pay for remedial services. Also, while many other tax (revenue) sources are buoyant, property values only rise slowly and so more revenue means rising the tax rate and this always causes trouble is regressive, weighing more heavily as a percentage of total income on those in the lower income ranges. The local traders complain, shop owners and property owners complain but the truth is that revenue collection in our districts and municipalities is not handled efficiently.

Inefficient methods used by the assemblies in collecting revenue affects government's revenue generation.

I enumerated these fundamental issues to show the need to appoint competent and people with the ability to manage our assemblies than this old order of appointing party ‘apparatchiks’ (job for the boy) who may not have the competence to handle issues.

Governments lose confidence at the base because of incompetence on the part of people appointed to handle the assemblies as many of them display gross incompetence, attitude of others always create tension between them and the local people including traditional rulers, others manipulate revenue collection systems in their areas etc. Some of these incompetent and substandard appointees print their own receipt books which they use instead of what is provided them by the government and place some selected revenue collectors holding their receipt books at points where levies are paid efficiently and constantly. Ask them to provide you with statistics of properties in their communities and you will find them wanting.

I have never been a supporter of the idea of electing MMDCEs but looking at happenings now, I am beginning to shift from my earlier position. If election of our MMDCEs can cure the problem of partisanship and appointing of inefficient officers, then, we must all embrace it. But I don't think we must do that with haste and aggression, we must soberly work on these issues dispassionately, allow the public to offer their practical contributions and suggestions to help us achieve what we all envisage. We shall discuss in detail the issue but in my subsequent writeup.

I suggest the President immediately constitute a team to investigate the allegation and monitor how the appointments going on vis-à-vis the massive rejections and protestations. I am requesting for this investigation because of the personalities involved.

Otiko Djaba is a substantive minister, I don't think what she said should be treated as coming from an ordinary party member