Government, through its Cabinet Committee tasked to scrutinize the 2016 Local Government Amendment (No.2) Bill, discarded proposals to transfer appointing powers of District Commissioners and Town Council’s Chief Executive Officers from the Minister responsible to respective Local Councils.
The Cabinet Committee also rebuffed proposed clauses that aimed to barring Members of Parliament from voting at Local Councils.
At the moment, it is only Malawi that allows MPs to vote at Local Councils in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and this, according to experts on Local Governance, jeopardizes the independence and operations of the local Councils in the country.
The Bill, which is said to be ready for tabling in Parliament this month, seeks to amend the Local Government Act, Cap. 22.01 of laws Malawi in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the local authorities and align the Act with the objectives of decentralization as stipulated in the Decentralization Policy of 1998.
At least 21 Sections of the Act have been earmarked for amendments.
But stakeholders including the Public AffairsCommittee (PAC), who were part of the review process under the banner “Government/Civil Society Task,” say the Cabinet Committee deleted and rephrased some clauses that were in the initial draft Bill that was sent to the Cabinet Committee for scrutiny.
Some members of the Cabinet Committee are Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperations Francis Kasaila, Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Atupele Muluzi and Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa.
According to Reverend Dr Felix Chingota, Chairperson of PAC, clauses that proposed to remove voting powers of MPs at Local Councils have been deleted from the Bill. While the clause proposing to transfer appointing powers of DCs from the Minister to Local Councils has been rephrased to still give the Minister powers on the same.
In the current 2010 Local Government Act, the Minister Responsible has appointing powers of the DCs and CEOs of Councils, but the Cabinet Committee discarded the proposal to transfer these powers from the Minister to the respective Councils.
Instead the Clause was rephrased to give the appointing powers to the Local Government Service Commission, but still with approval from the Minister.
The rephrased clause (10) says “a Town Clerk of a City, Municipal or Town Council and Clerk of Council of a District Council shall be appointed by the Local Government Service Commission on such conditions as the Commission, with the approval of the Minister, may determine.”
The clause further proposes that “the holders of the two offices shoud be appointed on fixed term contract instead of the current unfixed term contract and pensionable terms; to provide for the power to the Local Government Service Commission to appoint persons holding the posts in question; and to remove the powers of the Minister to transfer persons holding the offices from one Council to another.”
While clause 21 of the Bill proposes to amend various provisions of the Act to provide that the titles “District Commissioner” and “Chief Executive Officer” of a City and Town Council be substituted by titles “Clerk of Council” and “Town Clerk”, respectively.
“There are still two sticky issues that need to be addressed before this Bill is passed in Parliament. The issues are to do with the voting powers of the MPs in Local Councils and the recruitment if DCs and Chief Executive Officers of Town Councils.
“Why should be our MPs be voting at Local Councils when they have got that privilege at the Central government level. By virtue of being Members of Parliament, they can can always be Ex-officios, but without voting powers. There should separation of powers between the central government and local councils,” explained Chingota.
According to the PAC Chairperson, the curent arrangement infringes on the independence of the local Councils as MPs.
“We need sanity in our Local Councils. The Councils should be given the mandate to hire DCs and CEOs of Town Councils on three-year (renewable) contracts. We want the DCs to be answerable to the Local Councils and this will certainly enhance infrastructure and economic development as the Officers will be largely committed to their respective local government areas in fear of being fired for failure to meet the milestones,” explained Chingota.
It also proposes to amend Section 4 of the Act to provide for the establishment of a national professional body, to be called the “National Local Government Upgrading Committee”, which will be mandated to make recommendations for upgrading the status of a local government area whenever required.
The amendment bill further proposes to amend Section 6 of the Act to give Councils the function of making policy on local governance and development for the local government area.
It also seeks to amend Section 5 to provide for the ranks of the chiefs that will be representing Traditional Authorities as members of the Council; and to provide for consideration of gender representation when appointing non-voting members of the Council to represent special interest groups.
The Bill has also proposed to increase the term of office of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the District Councils from one year to two and half years renewable once, and to provide for the maximum terms of office that a person can hold the said office.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :