Local Authority councillors should be employed full-time: Kafula

14 Oct 2015 12:10pm
WINDHOEK, 14 OCT (NAMPA) - Local Authority councillors should be employed on a full-time basis as they are the transmitting belt between central government and the grassroots level.
Member of Parliament (MP) Agnes Kafula made these remarks during discussions on the amendment of the Local Authorities Bill in the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday.
She said due to the challenges faced by local authorities, the amendment should include solutions to socio-economic, legal and practical challenges that hamper the effective and efficient service delivery of local authorities.
“The role of local authorities is changing rapidly and requires one to have certain abilities. They should have a thorough understanding of the roles, functions and responsibilities of a councillor and that of the council; have a functional understanding of local government finance; be able to contribute to the advancement and development of the local authority; and interpret and articulate local government policies, legislation and by-laws,” she said.
Kafula said the last amendment of the Bill was done in 2002, stressing that the amendment under discussion needs intensive consultation with all stakeholders possible.
She added that councillors should also be able to contribute to the performance and decision-making of the council, and understand issues relating to ethics and corruption in the public service.
Kafula said because of the part-time positions they hold, councillors are torn between two sets of responsibility which results in them only attending to local authority matters after hours.
“They are dealing on a daily basis with the basic needs of our communities by overseeing the issues of poverty eradication and community sustainability,” she said.
The former City of Windhoek Mayor added that the councillors spend “an energetic eight hours” at their daily employment and are expected to perform to the best of their ability after hours while they are exhausted, and are as a result accused of poor performance.
“The local government leadership is not a hobby, it is a serious responsibility,” she noted.
Kafula also touched on the need to enhance accountability, increase transparency and boost fairness in the administration of personnel policy and the decision-making process within local authorities.
She said the majority of local government stakeholders have suggested the establishment of a local government commission as an institutional intervention to achieve these goals.
Kafula in addition recommended that the NA look at seconding councillors with a secondment period of five years.
Seconding is the process whereby an employee is assigned on a temporary basis to work for another organisation for a defined period of time for a specific purpose, while the original organisation remains responsible for the employee's salary.
Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana also made her contribution to the discussions, saying that appointing councillors on a full-time basis needed serious thinking.
She said the responsibilities of being a councillor is known to everyone, therefore local councillors are required to spend sufficient time in office.
She however noted that it is not enough to say that local authority councillors should be employed on a full-time basis as there should be a clear indication of whether they will have to resign from their public service jobs or not.
“The aspect of local authorities needs to be interrogated as employment on a full-time basis is crucial,” Iivula-Ithana said.
She expressed worry over employees who occupy high positions and are serving as councillors as they constantly have to make a sacrifice.
“If they are required to travel abroad with work, you can't employ a substitute in the meantime,” Iivula-Ithana said.
The discussions were adjourned for Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaningwa to make thorough refinements on the Bill for feedback before it is referred to the standing committee for review.