Mark concerned over proposed removal of local government minister

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Opposition Senator Wade Mark. File photo/ Sureash Cholai

Opposition Senator Wade Mark has raised concern over the intended removal of the ministerial portfolio for the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government.

His concerns were raised during the debate in Senate on Tuesday on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Bill, 2020 which addressed amendments in the Municipal Corporations Act, Chap. 25:04; the Burial Grounds Act, Chap. 30:50; the Cremation Act, Chap. 30:51; the Advertisements Regulation Act, Chap. 30:53; the Recreation Grounds and Pastures Act, Chap: 41:01; the Highways Act, Chap. 48:01; the Dogs Act, Chap. 675:4; the Property Taxes Act, Chap. 76:04 and the Planning and Facilitation of Development Act, No. 10 of 2014.

Earlier, Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi said a part of his obligation at the ministry was to wind up its affairs and hand it over to the Ministry of Finance.

“Why is the Minister of Local Government being removed from directing local government activities? Why do they want to excise and make the current Minister of Rural Development and Local Government not playing his role and part in local government reform?

“We have a new Tzar appearing on the landscape. He is the Minister of Finance. Wherever you turn in this legislation, he looms large, and he is effectively in charge. We reject completely this formula in the legislation.”

Mark said the proposed amendments were confusing, incoherent and contradictory and the outcome would be superficial, artificial and cosmetic.

He said finances, adequate human and capital resources were critical for the effective operations of the ministry and the amendments would not promote meaningful change and reform but rather bury local government.

“What we have seen in the legislation is that the Minister of Finance will be given the responsibility to determine the councillors, aldermen, mayors, chairmen, terms and conditions of employment or engagement in consultation with the Chief Personnel Officer.

“And of course, we have property taxes purportedly collected by the corporations to finance operation. Last but not least, the Bill administers the final funeral rights on the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government in this piece of legislation. The new Minister of Local Government will be the Minister of Finance.”

Mark urged the Government that laws alone cannot bring about local government reform but instead required self-sustaining communities through people participation in the decision-making processes.

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