Government Failure To Decentralize Hinders Service Delivery – Area Councils

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Landing B. Sanneh, the president of the Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities (GALGA).

By: Foday Manneh

The officials of area councils in Basse, Janjanbureh, Kuntaur, and Mansakonko say the central government’s failure to effectively decentralize power and functions undermines their efficient service delivery.

They made this assertion during the third edition of the Inter-Council Exchange Forum held recently and organized by Tostan-Gambia on the theme: Decentralization and Service Delivery in Local Governance.

Participants the Inter-Council Exchange Forum held recently and organized by Tostan-Gambia on the theme: Decentralisation and Service Delivery in Local Governance.

Landing B. Sanneh, the president of the Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities (GALGA), said decentralization in The Gambia is not promoting ownership for local councils to execute projects and effectively deliver services to the people.

“Government implementing projects meant to be given to local councils is common. It is the practice right now. In a proper decentralization framework, such projects should be entrusted with the local councils.”

Sanneh, who is the chairman of the Mansakonko Area Council, told The Alkamba Times (TAT) that even the statutory subvention to councils from the central government, which should also provide 25 percent of the councils’ development budget, going by the Local Government Act 2002, “has not been forthcoming.”

And this, plus the fact that councils’ revenue base is insufficient to meet the people’s demands, hinders effective service delivery, he added.

The vice chairperson of Janjanbureh Area Council, Haruna Barry, said the failure to comply with the Local Government Act 2002 “has been a contributing factor undermining the decentralization policy.”

Yuba Jawara, vice chairman of Basse Area Council, said area councils are entitled within their jurisdiction to many sources of revenue. Still, these are being collected by the central government.

He cited fees collected for gravel and sand mining from cattle owners, public billboards, public car parks, development permits, charges for motor traffic offenses, and occupancy documents as revenue sources for the councils.

However, “the central government is the one collecting these monies now. And they are not paying their property tax to councils,” according to Jawara.

He added that the autonomy of local councils in the Gambia is minimal in terms of executing their functions and responsibilities.

“Everything needs clearance, such as traveling, purchasing vehicles, and implementing projects. Even our budget has to go through the Ministry for approval; in most cases, they debate and remove some of the things that the council agreed on for our development activities.”

Speaking at the forum, the national coordinator for Tostan-Gambia, Edrisa Keita, said decentralization is a complex and resource-intensive process for any government. However, he believes it is possible but requires “strong political will.”

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