National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) parliamentarian Josef Kauandenge has lamented the Local Authorities Act, which he says gives the line minister too much power.
Kauandenge this week tabled a motion in the National Assembly, imploring lawmakers to amend the Local Authorities Act, with a view to address some of its shortcomings.
Kauandenge said one of the shortcomings of the Act is that the line minister has too much to control, reward and punishes with impunity those he or she disagrees with.
According to the Local Authorities Act 23 of 1992, the minister may, from time-to-time, by notice in the gazette, impose forfeiture of any allowance or other benefit or any allowance and any other benefit for a period not exceeding 30 days against a member of a local authority council who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of code of conduct.
The Act also allows the minister to suspend, by notice in writing, any member of a local authority council from office on the recommendation of the local authority council concerned and after having given such member an opportunity to be heard.
“The problem with our dysfunctional local authorities lies squarely with the wording in that Act - that gives excessive powers to the line minister; that results in local authorities not being able to execute their functions properly,” he said.
“On one hand, you have elected councillors who went to the polls and got elected; however, as far as the Act is concerned, there are officials in the line ministry who yield so much power – either to approve their submissions or to reject them. This provision in that Act is a serious contraction and it must be revisited. It is a fact that this Act is to be blamed for the ever-increasing bureaucratic conundrum in which many of our local authorities find themselves,” he said.
Local authorities such as Rundu, Rehoboth and Okahandja have been suspended in the past due to infighting.
“It is becoming evident that for the past 29 years or so, most of our local authorities fail to deliver on their mandate to provide basic services to our people, simply because they do not have powers because all the powers lie with the minister, who is not an elected member,” he said. Kauandenge proposed that the Act be amended to give elected councillors powers so that they can do their jobs without the interference of the minister, as they are the ones elected and answerable to the electorate.
“Many of our municipalities, town councils and village councils are treated like nobody kids [sic]; who must ask permission from the line ministry before they approve a number of service-related issues. Has this not proven to be counterproductive over all these years, as it delays the process of service delivery to our communities?”
Furthermore, Kauandenge also asked lawmakers to have a relook into the allowances paid to councillors, saying their pay has not been adjusted for a very long period despite the high cost of living.
“It is time that we re-look this issue of remuneration of these councillors as a matter of fact,” he said.
The remuneration of councillors has been a topical issue in recent weeks following a Namibian Sun article in which the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (Alan) president Katrina Shimbulu called on government to consider approving a 50% pay hike for local authority councillors as part of their monthly allowances.
Alan is pushing for the massive increases, with Shimbulu indicating the recommendation was benchmarked against allowances of the South African Local Government Association (Salga) and the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (Bala).
According to Alan’s recommendation, a mayor of a part two municipality, who currently earns N$88 910, should qualify for a proposed annual allowance of N$133 365, while the deputy mayor should get N$121 933, compared to the current yearly allowance of N$81 289.
Alan also recommended a yearly allowance of N$125 742 for chairpersons of management committees and N$114 313 for ordinary council members. For town councils, Alan recommended N$116 250 for mayor, N$104 626 for deputy mayor and N$108 499 in annual allowances for management committee chairpersons.
The association also wants ordinary councillors serving on town councils to receive a yearly allowance of N$96 876 instead of the current N$64 584.