President Michael Sata has directed the Ministry of Local Government and Housing to quickly resolve the matter surrounding the crop levy.
President Sata said government appreciates and supports the fact that a significant proportion of the financial resources of local authorities should be derived from local taxes, fees and charges for which they have the power to determine the rates to cover the costs of services that they provide.
And President Sata has noted that government recognises local government as the engine for social and local economic development.
Mr. Sata said it is for this reason that his government is committed to ensuring that the local government system is sufficiently funded through increased fiscal transfers as evidenced by the budgetary provisions.
The President added that government will ensure that any transfer or delegation of tasks and responsibilities to local government shall be accompanied by corresponding and adequate financial resources.
President Sata said this today in a speech read for him by Republican Vice President Dr. Guy Scott at the official opening of the 57th Annual Conference of the Local Government Association of Zambia in Nakonde, Muchinga Province.
This year’s conference is being held under the theme “In pursuit of integrated local solutions for the MDGs delivery agenda-today, tomorrow and beyond 2015.”
President Sata further stated that government in line with the Patriotic Front (PF) manifesto has laid down the basic framework to facilitate the realization of a fully decentralized system of governance in councils countrywide.
The President said the ultimate goal for this development is to ensure increased local participation in the decision making process.
Mr. Sata indicated that the programme of creating new districts will continue as a measure to achieve full participatory democracy.
He also added that government is committed to supporting both the new and old existing districts within its economic and financial capacities.
President Sata observed that since local government is the panacea to local economical and social development, the Association must comprehend the principles of decentralisation and play its role in its implementation in the most effective and efficient manner.
“Having been associated with local government for many years, I am aware that your association has played a very constructive role in the development of the local government system in Zambia” he said.
“I am also aware that your members have demonstrated effective roles and responsibilities despite the various challenges they face. Your Association has equally responded positively to the programmes that aim at strengthening the operational capacity of your councils for efficient service delivery to the communities,” he noted.
President Sata has since challenged the Association to continue playing its role with enthusiasm and zeal to make the decentralisation process a success for development and for the benefit of the country.
Meanwhile, President Sata has stated that government is not insensitive to the appeal of the Association for remuneration of councillors except that the matter requires time and thorough consideration so that the best solution is found.
And Minister of Local Government and Housing Emerine Kabanshi noted that it is government’s policy to only release funds to councils that put the previous funding to good use.
Ms. Kabanshi warned that severe punishment and disciplinary action will be impacted on councils that delay to implement developmental projects.
The Minister said it was shameful to observe that public amenities are in a deplorable state a situation which she said is worsened by among other reasons the low revenue collection by councils.
“As Minister of Local Government and Housing I can’t just sit and watch this sad state of affair,” she lamented.
And United Nations Country Representative in Zambia Kani Wignaraja noted that local government have an influence on national decision making and a right to influence policies on national budget and governance.
Ms. Wignaraja said after making a tremendous achievement with some of the MDGs, Zambia should be asking itself where it is today and what it should look at to make a change.
She observed that there is less than one thousand (1,000) days remaining to meet the MDGS adding that when they were formed most people felt they were ambitious but they have provided the needed focus in national development.
Ms. Wignaraja said Zambia has risen to the challenge and has seen steady growth which has brought foreign direct income and that the country was no longer highly indented.