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Council autonomy can speed up service delivery

MASERU City Council (MCC) workers last Friday bared all when they publicly complained about the sorry state of affairs in the council to Local Government Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.
The workers told Metsing that all was not well in the MCC with the council being on the verge of financial ruin.
Morale is said to have hit rock bottom.
There has also been a huge exodus of skilled workers quitting their jobs in droves in search of greener pastures.
The key planning office is being manned by just three people.
But more telling is that in spite of their good plans to revamp the city such plans cannot be implemented because there is no money.
It was against this background that the council workers demanded autonomy from central government.
We support their argument.
In fact, we agree that with the council autonomous service delivery, which is quite atrocious in Maseru, can be speeded for the benefit of the city’s 300 000 people.
Council would also not have to wait for the minister to approve the council’s budget.
The workers claimed the MCC can be able to collect and run its own operation without political interference from central government for the benefit of the city’s residents.
They claim they do not want to wait for handouts from central government.
These were just some of the few complaints the workers presented to the deputy prime minister on Friday.
We would like to believe time has come for a radical shake-up of the MCC.
The government, headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, swept into power on the back of promises of change.
The 300 000 people in Maseru expect some radical shift in service delivery.
They want better roads. Garbage must be collected on time.
They want a cleaner city. They want a green city with well manicured gardens.
However this change can only come if councils are empowered to deliver.
We therefore are persuaded to agree with the workers that the council needs autonomy from government.
Council must be in charge of its own budget.
It should never be beholden to the central government.
We also think the Maseru City Council would benefit greatly if it is run by an executive mayor with full powers.
The challenges facing the city require an executive mayor, elected by the people, and who is answerable to the people.
Lesotho must dump the post of ceremonial mayor. It has been proven to be quite ineffective.
With an executive mayor in place, council must be able to wield some muscle in calling the shots and driving policy on the ground.
The present set-up renders council impotent.
How for instance is council expected to demand payment from the government for the use of council property when the government is the one controlling the purse?
We now know that the government has been among the biggest defaulters over the past two decades.
As the workers indicated the government has not been paying rates to the council for the past 23 years.
Anywhere else this should be a monumental scandal.
The government must therefore let go of its control of council and ensure it is truly autonomous.

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