How are we proceeding?
Decentralisation, handing tasks over from a line ministry to regional councils, means that staff, assets and funds must be transferred from central government to regions. This requires profound changes in the way the government is organized, and therefore it also takes time.
Since the inception of the policy, much effort has been put in creating an enabling environment for decentralisation. In simple terms, this means developing guidelines for involved stakeholders on how to go about handing over functions (tasks) and resources.
Another key area of work has been strengthening of the regional councils to prepare them to take over functions that are currently performed by the line ministries. This work, too, is bearing fruit as assessment studies conducted in all regions indicate that the regions are now ready for the handover.
So far, only one of the functions earmarked for decentralization in the Decentralisation Policy, rural water supply, has been handed over to regional councils. This happened in August 2007. Indication however exists that several other earmarked functions could be handed over in 2008.
Local authorities have already been assigned the responsibility for delivering a number of traditional urban services in their areas. These include services like water supply, electricity, sewerage, refuse collection and infrastructure maintenance and development. They are not expected to receive additional functions from the line ministries in the short term. However, they are expected to play an increasingly important role in decentralisation in the medium to long term.
It is important to note that functions are being decentralised in two phases. These are called delegation and devolution. At the moment, we are at the first phase, delegation, where sub-national governments perform tasks on behalf of the line ministries. At the second phase, devolution, decentralisation takes full effect and sub-national governments have the full responsibility over the tasks delegated to them. At this stage, they will also have more freedom to decide how the resources given out by the central government for the region or local authority area are to be used.