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Staff writer

Urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni says that government is not to blame for any dysfunctional local authority councils.

This comes as NUDO secretary-general Joseph Kauandenge argued that the local authority act had bestowed too much power on the line minister, resulting in the stifling of local authorities. Kauandenge further accused central government of allocating peanuts to local authorities.

“It is not right to blame the dysfunctional state of any local authority, as Kauandenge alleged, on the minister’s powers, duties, and functions.”

He said government’s powers are misunderstood and viewed as meant to control local authorities.

“These assumptions are, to say the least, unfortunate as they are devoid of any truth and without any base. It is a common cause that central government plays an oversight role.”

Kauandenge also accused the Act of contradicting itself.

“I disagree that the Act contradicts itself. The Act is a result of rigorous consultation with all key stakeholders and legal minds. The current Act is still relevant to local authority needs,” Uutoni said.

On the funding to town councils, the MURD minister said that what government provides them is merely a supplement and not to be depended upon.

He said local authority councils have the power to budget and collect revenue according to their mandate and functions.

“The subsidies and grants from central government are meant to supplement their own revenue resources.”

According to the minister, for the 2018/2019 fiscal year, government allocated N$53 million to pay salaries, utilities, outstanding creditors, 3rd party payments, office equipment, and vehicles. N$697 million was further allocated to municipal towns, village councils and newly declared settlements to construct service infrastructures.

Government allocated N$91 million for the 2019/2020 financial year as subsidies for town councils to utilise at their discretion with an additional N$561 million. During2020/2021, N$71 million was allocated. In addition, grants totalling N$417 million was allocated.

“In these times of economic uncertainties, it cannot be said that budget allocation to the ministry and government agency of funding to local authorities is sufficient considering the multiple and ever-increasing need and challenges faced by people, especially those living in urban and rural areas.”

The minister further said the urban and rural local government sector is one of the most demanding in terms of service and developmental needs, and as such adequate funding will be a challenge.

“Local authorities are implored to prudently utilise their financial resources to do more with less.”

Uutoni further said that his predecessor, Peya Mushelenga, in 2018 suspended the entire Rehoboth town council and, by consequences, stripped it of its powers because it was unable to exercise its powers and perform the duties entrusted to it by law. He said it was not because the council disagreed with Mushelenga.

He said the town council could not meet its financial commitments such as payment to bulk suppliers and contracts.

“No proper control was exercised over the asset. The town council did not comply with the Act relating to holding council meetings.

Kauandenge said the local authority Act is a total contraction of itself in many respects, especially when it comes to the issue of bureaucracy.

“Is the current Act still relevant 29 years after the first promulgation? Does this Act still respond to the increased needs and wants of local authorities? My answer to the above is a big no.”

He further said that the Act and its subsequent amendments are tailored to control local authorities with impunity and make the line minister all too powerful to control, reward, and punish those he disagrees with.

“Central government seems to not take local authorities seriously by giving meagre resources to this very important ministry urban and rural development, which is the custodian of local authorities in Namibia.”

MURD received N$1.3 billion in the current national budget. This is about N$243 million compared to its allocation last year.

“One example that is Windhoek Municipality must give an annual 5 per cent from their revenue to the Khomas Regional Council, what the heck is that? I must put it bluntly that we have a system that is so f****d up to the core. Why must the City of Windhoek give this money from their revenues to the Khomas Regional Council? After all, the COW does all the work. The others are sitting on their backside doing nothing, being paid handsomely, yet they must still get the 5 per cent for what?” said Kauandenge.

He further said that local authorities councillors are underpaid. He noted with inflation that many councillors’ salaries have not been adjusted for a very long period now, yet the cost of living continues to increase daily.

“In contrast, you have regional councillors who are better paid, have medical Aid and a pension. However, on close scrutiny, one realises that indeed there was a serious oversight to even have these regional councillors, especially in areas where there is, municipal, towns, or village council.”

Staff Writer

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